Sunday, January 15, 2012

Defensive Driving

Some months ago I passed a school bus discharging kids on the other side of a divided roadway some six lanes away from mine. I never saw it because I don't have the peripheral vision of a chameleon. Long story short, 5 points on my license and a $300 fine. Thank you officer, may I have another. As a result of this debacle, I enrolled in a defensive driving class to remove some of the points from my record and reduce my auto insurance premiums, which are approaching the gross national product of Romania. The class was held yesterday, and I learned some interesting things about the driving laws of New York State.

Did you know that when stopping for a stop sign, the law requires you to: 1) come to a full stop at the stop sign behind the crosswalk; roll slowly into the intersection, and come to another full stop when you can see the traffic flow; 3) look both ways to see if you are clear to proceed and then make your turn or go straight ahead. That seems like a lot of steps. On Staten Island we have a shorter procedure. Because making one full stop, much less two, takes too much time, we slow down to a rolling 10 mph at the stop sign, using the opportunity to change the CD in the radio, and then gun the car into the intersection. We always keep one hand on the horn in case we have to scare the bejusus out of any poor soul who happened to be occupying the lane we were now in. 

Here's another new bit of driving knowledge I picked up. On a highway, driving for any distance in the left lane is against the law; the left lane is supposed to be for passing only. That brought a smile. I'll bet there are people who have taken route I-95 from Brooklyn, New York to Miami, Florida while in the left lane for the entire trip. On the Garden State Parkway in New Jersey, many senior citizens drive from New York down to Atlantic City the whole way in the left lane never going above 55 mph. There are maniacs passing them on the shoulder, narrowly missing the deer grazing there, in an effort to send a message that they might want to move over, but that look on Grandpa's face says: " By God, the limit is 55 and I ain't moving for nobody." Charming.

As I understand it, there are two penalty points assessed against NY State drivers for using a cell phone or texting while driving. This is a joke. I get assessed 5 points for passing a school bus that was stopped two miles away, while these pinheads get a lousy two points! People crazy enough to text in a moving vehicle should have their licenses suspended. They are clearly the most dangerous drivers on the road. As a Christian I shouldn't say this, but in all honesty, I really don't care if they kill would clean up the gene pool a bit. I just worry that they will kill me or some other innocent bystander because of their stupidity. We need to crack down on these morons.

I should correct myself...those who drink and drive are as bad, and maybe worse, than drivers who text. You can probably have a beer or a glass of wine and remain under the legal limit for DWI or DUI, but beyond this is really asking for trouble. Even one drink, when combined with certain over-the counter or prescription drugs, can leave you physically impaired. This is the rule most of us probably break at one time or another. Before doing this next time, imagine trying to live with the reality that your recklessness maybe killed or maimed an innocent person and destroyed someone's family. That's a lot of guilt to carry around for a lousy glass of Merlot. Don't hesitate to surrender your car keys, or to ask for someone else's; drunk driving is just not worth the risk. 

Most people of my generation took their drivers test in the days when the rules for driving buckboards were still on the books. Maybe all NY State drivers, young and old, as a condition for renewing their licenses, should be required to take a defensive driving class. Many new regs are on the books, and we've forgotten half the ones we thought we knew.


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Joseph Del Broccolo said...

Following the rules of the road, especially the local roads have caused me more problems than I care to mention. I twice stopped for a full stop and the moron behind me hit me, then said: "I thought you were making a rolling stop!" A FRIGGING ROLLING STOP!, WHAT THE HELL IS THAT? A stop means not moving, no?

Jim Pantaleno said...

Joe, I see people blatantly run red's dangerous out there. Be careful.