Street Smart

My co-pilot Cali, from a Facebook post four years ago today.

One of my greatest accomplishments is a perfect score on my written driver’s exam.

I was 16 and one month old, and remember feeling proud smug that I answered every question correctly. My mother was thrilled when I got my license, having another driver for weekly McDonald’s runs and catechism pickups on Saturday morning.

Back then, we couldn’t wait to get our license so we could cruise through suburbia. But today’s kids are in no particular rush to drive. Two of my nieces and a nephew didn’t drive until they were 18, and I’m still chauffeuring around my 17-year-old daughter.

She wants to get her license, but we’re in no hurry because we worry about her safety. It’s not so much her, but all the other drivers that parents worry about. We know how many idiots are out there – tailgaters, red light runners, people who cross three lanes of traffic to exit without signaling – and we shudder.

I know one mom who followed her son the first day he drove to school on his own. This is how we roll. We want to make sure our kids get from point A to B, and can’t believe they can actually do it without us.

As experienced drivers, we know the dangers lurking on the roads, and we worry that our kids are too immature or inexperienced to handle them. I walked around holding my breath for about a year after my son got his license. Just when I got used to the idea, he was in an accident en route to a high school debate.

No one was injured, but my anxiety level soared and I learned how to use Find My I-Phone to track him. This is the best tool ever invented for moms of new drivers. It assures us that they’ve arrived at their destinations without them knowing we’re checking up on them.

I have a clean driving record, though I’ve received verbal warnings for speeding and talking on my cell phone. I was cited a few years ago for making an illegal turn, but fought the ticket and won. I have no points on my license, and pride myself on being a decent driver.

So what’s my point? I couldn’t get my license today. I’ve failed three practice tests for a Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles learner’s permit. You need a score of 80 to pass, and I can’t break 65. Either the test’s a lot harder, or I’ve forgotten everything I learned in driver’s ed.

I’m going with the second option because I’ve been driving for nearly 45 years and know what I’m doing. I’m willing to bet most drivers – Connecticut or otherwise – would fail because some of the questions are ridiculous.

The good news is I did well on road signs, which still mean the same thing they did back in the 70s. The bad is I’m completely out of touch with today’s terminology. Since when is gridlock at an intersection called “blocking the box?” What box?

Here are a few questions that tripped me up. See how you do.

When a vehicle does not pass an emissions inspection, the driver will be given __ to have the problem fixed and the emissions re-checked.
A. two months
B. two weeks
C. a week
D. one month.

The answer is A. But I didn’t know this because we didn’t have emissions tests in 1975. They didn’t become required in Connecticut until 1983.

At a speed of 55 mph, a vehicle needs _ to pass.
A. 5 seconds
B. 10 seconds

C. 14 seconds
D. 12 seconds

The answer is D. I said B. At least I didn’t say A.

If you fail the Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) test, your operator’s license will be suspended for at least
A. 60 days.
B. 30 days.
C. 1 year.
D. 45 days.

The answer is D. I said A. I don’t know how they came up with 45 days, but it seems arbitrary and too short. And I felt better when even a lawyer I know pretty well got this wrong too.

During heavy traffic, drivers are prohibited from entering any intersection, unless there is sufficient space on the opposite side of the intersection to accommodate their vehicle without obstructing the passage of other vehicles or pedestrians. NOT doing so is referred to as
A. blocking the driver.
B. blocking the way.
C. blocking the intersection.
D. blocking the box.

The answer is D. I said C. I have no idea when this term was invented, nor have I ever heard anyone say it. But the next time someone does it, you can be sure I’m going to use it.

__ are areas around a truck or other heavy vehicle in which other vehicles disappear into blind spots.
A. Blind-Zones
B. Side-Zones
C. No-Zones
D. Slow-Zones

The answer is C. I said A. I have no idea when this term began being used, but even my son knew it. He said they discussed in in driver’s ed, and it’s in the manual. Oh.

Pretty much anywhere near a truck is the No Zone.

So what has this taught me? I’m hopelessly out of touch with today’s terminology, and need to brush up on my driving lingo. But it also shows that you can be an experienced driver without knowing all the rules and regulations in the handbook.

Still, I think I probably have a lot of company, at least in terms of general driving knowledge and operation.

I follow the rules of the road and try to control my road rage. I don’t text, put on mascara in the rear view mirror, eat a Quarter Pounder with cheese while driving 80 mph, or read a book while driving – all things I’ve seen over the years.

I don’t blast my music so other drivers can hear it at red lights, or make right turns on red without stopping. I don’t cut into traffic and expect another driver to stop, or drive around without headlights in rain, snow or at dusk.

I use my blinker, sometimes excessively, and am infinitely polite at four-way traffic stops. I don’t tailgate (most of the time) and if I wave you into traffic, I expect a wave or some type of acknowledgement for my kindness.

I am a typical driver, what I like to think as an everyman driver. I won’t bother you if you don’t bother me, and if things go as planned, we’ll all get to where we’re going without incident. I may not be book smart, but I’m street smart. And at this point, I think that’s enough.

12 thoughts on “Street Smart

  1. It’s funny because I too remember racing to dmv on my 16th birthday to get my permit. My daughter turned 17 in November and hasn’t even thought about getting one…in her mind, what’s the point? She not going to have a car for the immediate future, and there’s Uber, and by the time she’s done with school cars will be self driving….but yeah…different world

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I have no memory of what I scored on the written test. Probably, it was just enough to get by, because that’s how I rolled in those days. I do remember the day though. It was exactly on my 16th birthday, and not one day later, because I needed to have wheels, like yesterday.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Yeah, I got one right, the one where you had already given the answer. Can’t believe how much the test has changed, considering the fact that driving hasn’t changed at all. Has it?


  4. I got all of your questions wrong also. I’ve moved so much in my life and discovered to my detriment that you literally have to memorize each state driver’s handbook. I was a little too cavalier when I moved from VA to DC, and I didn’t study at all, so I failed miserably. Logic doesn’t work on those exams, only memorization. Oh, and I thought the “Box” only existed in big cities; I guess not. Solidarity, G. – Marty

    Liked by 1 person

  5. There are DMV practice tests online. Lots of them. I kept taking the practice tests until I was at 90%, then when I took “real test” in person, I passed. I would suggest doing that. Even if we are an excellent driver, a test is a test and even years ago I thought the test questions were tough.

    GOOD LUCK – you can do this!

    Liked by 1 person

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