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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883


Check the nut behind the wheel

I’ve written that no matter their degree of prowess, every driver can learn and improve. 

That thought rings true for reader V.D., recalling fatherly advice and noting, “When I was being taught to drive by my father (many, many years ago), he told me to watch out for the FIVE idiots on the road: the one to the right, the one to the left, the one in front, the one behind, and, most importantly, the one behind the wheel of your car.  In other words, you, the driver, need to be aware that you are also one of the idiots on the road (and I am sure that if we are honest, we will admit that we have all done something that we were lucky to get away with)!”

Yes, we can all make mistakes.  The important thing is to take them seriously, learn from them and strive to not repeat them. If a driving error only results in a warning honk or sweaty palms instead of a collision, it’s a matter of luck.  In those cases, be thankful for your good fortune and make plans to modify the behavior that caused the “close one.”

Usually, such driver mistakes arise from lack of attention and disabling distraction.  We all know there are various tempting distractions vying for our attention while driving.  Some, like rubbernecking at roadside incidents can lure us with little notice.  Others, however, like talking and texting on cell phones, are easier to consciously avoid.

Like V.D. implied, a big step toward better driving is admitting we are not perfect.  Too many drivers believe they have little room for improvement, and thinking that they are superior to all other drivers, spend time criticizing them instead of themselves.

As mentioned, if you have a “near miss” (actually, a near hit), be thankful that no damage occurred and analyze what went wrong (day dreaming, distraction, failure to yield right of way).  If it was your fault, take steps to improve.  If it was not your fault, consider increasing vigilance in similar circumstances.  If you don’t know who was at fault, check the law. 

Knowledge of the road rules and traffic laws is an important driver skill. Without it, errors are likely. State motor vehicle codes and statutes are internet-available, which are a great resource for guiding proper driving behavior.  Published state driver guides summarize these rules and procedures, while providing valuable information for any driver about to take a license exam or those wishing to refresh their knowledge.

Another thing to prepare when taking the road is your state of mind.  Starting out agitated or with resentment toward others are sure paths to aggressive driving and road rage.  Don’t condemn others for their mistakes, but simply drive defensively enough to accommodate those errors — vigilant enough evade collisions and other emergency situations arising from them.

For example, if someone pulls out from a side street with little space or warning, just be glad that you were going a reasonable speed and had the alertness to avoid a collision.  Don’t speed closer to them and honk your horn.  That type of behavior only contributes to rage and might escalate situations that should have been quickly over.

If we admit we are not perfect, we may be able to improve.

Readers may contact Bill Love via e-mail at