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


Driving is a privilege

Especially at these times — with many restrictions in place — I treasure the driving privilege.     Some call it a right, and others call it a privilege.  Whichever it is, yours can be lost.  While there is validity to a premise that the Constitution guarantees our right to travel freely upon our nation’s highways, rights can be curtailed as we have now seen

So I prefer to think of driving as a privilege.  Without due respect for that privilege, cities and states can legally deny our freedom to use the roadways based on our driving behavior.

In order to retain the driving privilege, we must apply for and renew driver licenses, register our vehicles, and maintain insurance.  Some states even require safety inspections before cars and trucks are licensed — I like that idea, although others believe it infringes on their rights.  Does one have the right to subject others to the lack of safety inherent in a car with faulty brakes and bad tires?

But besides the required paperwork for driving qualification, we must drive in a way to retain our privilege.  And what’s the test of driving well?  For some driving success means staying between the lines and avoiding physical contact with other cars.  Indeed, some 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 much more to good driving than not hitting things — like paying attention and following laws.  Accident avoidance is a natural, passive outcome for drivers who follow and practice principles of good driving.  Avoiding the “close one” is satisfying and potentially life-saving.

The number one requisite to drive well, I believe, is attention to the task — full mental devotion during every moment of driving.  That means resisting distraction, which comes in many forms.

Driving, most of the time, is too easy and uneventful.  Too easy, because with an automatic transmission, the simple tasks of steering, accelerating and braking require little concentration.  Uneventful, since during much of our driving time, things go smoothly — other drivers are acting in proper and predictable manners.

These factors can lull us into a false sense of security.  We may begin to multi-task, submit to distraction, and become ill-prepared for an impending 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.

Such driving precision will soon reward you.  You will be ready to avoid an emerging object (such as a child or dog) that suddenly appears from between parked cars.  The red light runner won’t t-bone you at the intersection where you had the green light because you spotted him coming when scanning your approach.

Lack of attention leads to traffic citations too — accumulating those will also affect your privilege to drive.  Simple driving errors — citable offenses — are often the result of inattention.  Not realizing you are in a school zone and unaware of your actual speed, missing a stop sign, or weaving across lines are all things which might be attributed to distraction.

Continuous effort to improve will certainly pay off.  There are always ways to improve concentration level and skill achievement in regard to your driving.  Protect the privilege — it’s not an assured right.

Readers may contact Bill Love via e-mail at