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


The driving privilege

Some drivers think of driving as more of a right than a privilege.  But while our Constitutional rights include the freedom to travel America’s roadways, that freedom can be taken away via enforcement and judicial systems.

So I prefer to think of driving as a privilege.  When we abandon respect for that privilege by violating established laws, various agencies can curtail our freedom to drive.

In order to legally retain the driving privilege, we must apply for and renew driver licenses, register vehicles, and maintain insurance.  Some states even require safety inspections for vehicle registration — I like that idea, although others believe it infringes on their rights.  But should they have the right to expose others to their vehicle’s lacking safety with its faulty brakes or bald tires?

Beyond the “paperwork” requirements for driving, we must drive in ways to retain the privilege.  And what does driving well entail?  For some, driving success means only staying between the lines and avoiding collisions.  And many drivers even fall short of handling those basics — and if they fail them too often, their privilege to drive will be lost.

Of course, there is more to good driving than steering and not hitting things — like paying attention and following rules of the road.  Accident avoidance is a natural, passive outcome for drivers who follow and practice principles of defensive driving.

The number one requisite to drive well is full mental devotion during every moment of driving.  Driving is most often too easy and uneventful.  I say “too easy,” because with an automatic transmission, the simple tasks of steering, accelerating and braking are easily mastered — a four-year-old can drive a go-cart.  I say “uneventful,” since during much of our driving time, other drivers are exhibiting proper and predictable behavior.

Those realities can lull us into a false sense of security.  We may begin to multi-task, submit to distraction, and become ill-prepared for an emergency.  A good driver is prepping for that emergency at all times, so a proper reaction can be made when it occurs.  This driving readiness should not spoil your driving experience, but rather enhance it.



Full attention has its rewards.  You will be ready to avoid an object (like a dog) suddenly emerging from between parked cars.  The red light runner won’t t-bone you at the intersection because you were watching for it even though you had a green light.

In total driving time emergency situations are few, but it’s crucial to be in a vigilant, defensive driving mode when they take place.  Besides the potential mayhem and carnage, frequent accidents will lead to restriction or removal of your driving privilege.

Simple driving errors — yet citable offenses — are often the result of inattention.  Not realizing you are in a school zone, being unaware of your actual speed or missing a stop sign are all things which are attributed to distraction or lack of focus.  Traffic ticket buildup is another way to lose your insurance and license.

Take pride in the “mechanics” of driving.  In the absence of emergencies, you can still apply precision to normal acts:  maintaining a steady, proper speed; keeping ideal distance fore and aft;  checking your mirrors often; looking ahead to avoid excessive braking; making accurate turns; dimming lights when required at night; smooth braking; effective merging; and perfecting other driving maneuvers. 

There’s always room for improvement — get better — protect your privilege.

Readers may contact Bill Love via e-mail at