Dear Dr. Gridlock:
I have followed your column for years, and though I have had strong opinions about many topics, the driving school situation has prompted my first letter.
Hours of "classroom lessons" seem to bore our teenagers. I sent my new driver out for the first two of her six hours of behind-the-wheel instruction. I got back a form neatly checked off that she was doing okay, and she announced she had driven to D.C. from Montgomery County.
So I happily got into the car with her to see how well she was driving, and she could not get out of the driveway and down the street.
After the second "lesson," I got a verbal reprimand from the "instructor," who said that it was not his job to teach her how to drive (silly me), but that once I had taught her to navigate the streets safely he would teach her to parallel park and pass her test.
It appears that a "two-hour driving lesson" means getting in the car and to the next student and back within two hours' time.
I have gone from letting her drive in an empty parking lot to one with a few cars and to streets with little traffic, and one day hope to get her ready for her final "driving lesson" from the school.
Each time I venture out, I wish we had a student driver sign to display to warn the other motorists to watch out for us. There are places where new and learning drivers must have such signs in the back window to warn others to be more aware and patient. I would feel a lot safer knowing others knew to be more careful. An added benefit to a displayed sign: It would be a good way to curb curfew violators.
Good luck in trying to improve the driving school situation. This really could be a life-and-death matter.
Dear Dr. Gridlock:
You have asked for suggestions on what to add to the driver's education curriculum. I have three to add to your list.
1. Proper use and adjustment of mirrors. I have taught my kids to constantly be aware of what is around them -- front, sides and rear -- and to check the mirrors every several seconds or so. In an emergency reaction situation, you need to know immediately if the adjacent lane is clear or whether someone is behind you.
2. Slower drivers move right. That simple concept works great in Europe. Left lanes are for passing and for faster vehicles. There is nothing more aggravating than pulling up behind two slow vehicles driving side by side that insist on building up a "parade" behind them. The courteous thing to do would be to move ahead to create a gap for faster traffic to pass -- or just move to the center or right lane. Those types of drivers just don't get it. They are not making a safer situation; they are actually creating a hazard.
3. When given a fork in the road -- pick one! The number of times I have seen indecisive drivers freeze on the road when faced with a left or right road split decision is unbelievable. That happens very suddenly and generally results in a rear-end accident about eight to 10 cars back. Then the driver goes on his/her oblivious way -- not realizing that he/she has caused a lot of grief and damage.
Charles L. Gallion Jr.
Transportation researcher Diane Mattingly contributed to this column.
Dr. Gridlock appears Sunday in the Metro section and Thursday in Extra. You can write to Dr. Gridlock, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071. He prefers to receive e-mail, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or faxes, at 703-352-3908. Please include your full name, town, county and day and evening phone numbers.