Is driving a right or a privilege? However you label it, yours can be lost. Having the freedom to travel our nation’s roadway network is a wonderful right, but that right can be lost. So I prefer to think of driving as a privilege. Without practicing due respect for that privilege, state law enforcement can legally deny your driving freedom.
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 — a program I condone but some feel infringes on rights. Do you have they have the right to subject others to the lack of safety inherent in a car with mechanical flaws?
Beyond the aforementioned “paperwork” aspects of driving qualification, we must also drive in a way to retain our privilege. What does driving well entail? For many, it seems, driving success just means staying between the lines and avoiding wrecks. And many drivers even fall short of performing those basics — inevitably losing their privilege to drive through license suspension.
Of course, there is much more to good driving than a collision-free record — like paying attention, following laws and driving with precision. Collision-avoidance is a natural, passive outcome for drivers who follow and practice principles of good driving.
The number one requisite to drive well, I believe, is attention to the task — full cognitive devotion during every driving moment. Succumbing to any mental or physical distraction takes necessary attention away from effective driving.
Maybe, vehicle operation is too easy and driving too often uneventful. I say “too easy,” because with an automatic transmission, the simple tasks of steering, accelerating and braking are easily mastered — any four-year-old can drive a go-cart. I say “uneventful,” since during much of our driving time, things go smoothly — other drivers are acting in proper and predictable manners. These factors can lull drivers into a false sense of security, when we may submit to distraction and become ill-prepared for emergencies. Good drivers prep for emergencies at all times with a general readiness for timely reactions.
Such readiness will undoubtedly reward you. You’ll be ready to avoid an emerging child or dog that suddenly appears from between parked cars. You won’t “t-bone” the red-light runner where you had the green light.
In the totality of driving time these emergency situations are few, but it’s quite rewarding to be in an alert defensive driving mode when they take place. Besides the carnage, a record of frequent accidents will lead to restriction or removal of your driving privilege.
Driving errors lead to traffic citations. 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, being generally unaware of your actual speed, or missing a stop sign are all things which are attributed to distraction or lack of focus.
Try to take more pride in the “mechanics” of driving. Even in the absence of emergencies, you can apply precision to normal acts: maintaining a steady, proper speed; keeping ideal distance fore and aft; being aware and keeping track of what is in your mirrors; looking ahead to avoid excessive braking; making accurate turns; dimming lights when required at night; smooth braking; or effective merging, for example.
Protect your privilege.
Readers may contact Bill Love via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.