Tuesday, October 08, 2019

She Can't Drive 55

Lindsey behind the wheel of her dream F150 at the State Fair this summer.
Getting your license sure has changed a lot since I was 16. When I was learning how to drive, my classmates and I were handed the DMV driver's handbook and put in a simulator where we goofed around for an hour a day for one week. I tested for my permit after that, then I did two or three behind-the-wheels with Mr. Berceau, our biology teacher, and eventually took my driving test. I'm sure I did lots of practice hours so I could pass the test, but had the opportunity to do more when I failed my test the first time I took it. Oh well.

Lindsey had to complete 30 hours of classroom training before she could even get her permit. After that, she needs six hours of behind-the-wheel instruction with a certified instructor, then 50 "practice" hours with an adult. Which means, a parent. Which in our house means me, because we all agree that Wayne would not have the patience or composure needed to be the parent with a new driver behind the wheel.

These 50 hours should be a good mix of neighborhood, highway, daytime and nighttime driving. The night time driving is mandated — 15 hours required. There's a handy little app called "Road Ready" that can track all of your practice drives and awards you badges based on the kind of driving you do.

I had forgotten how much driving is habit. Deeply ingrained, instilled habits that experienced drivers forget to teach. Like, when you back out of parking space, you need to begin turning the wheel in the direction you want to go before you take your foot off the brake. If you don't, you end up doing what Lindsey did one Saturday afternoon, which had to be quite amusing to passersby. She parked, backed up, re-parked the car in the same spot, backed out, re-parked, backed out, until I finally realized she wasn't turning the wheel in the opposite direction before taking her foot off the brake.

She has tried to take the car out of park before she's started it. She's almost gotten out of the car before realizing she hasn't yet turned it off. She's mistaken the gas for the brake and vice versa. (But realized it quickly and corrected her mistake.) These are all deeply ingrained habits for people who have been driving for years, and they all have to be remembered by a new driver every single time.

It's so fascinating to see these habits build upon themselves. Things that were difficult to remember are becoming habit. Neighborhoods are now a snap, and now we're moving on to highways, then freeways. She's building her skills and her confidence and is always careful.

Posing with my car with her student driver sticker...and damage done in an unrelated incident.

This brings me to the title of this post.

The first time Lindsey drove down France Ave, the main street in our neighborhood, she felt like she was flying. She checked her speed and discovered she was going 20 — 5 miles under the speed limit. When we hit four-lane roads that are 40 mph, she dutifully pulls into the right lane, knowing that everyone else will be speeding around her in the left-hand lane because she's only doing 35. And she drove on a highway for the first time this week, telling me she felt like she was driving a spaceship, her elbows locked as she gripped the steering wheel, eyes fixed on the road. A semi-truck passed her on her left and she was like "Whoa!" She may have hit 55 for a minute or two, but most of the time she was being passed by a parade of vehicles.

This experience is making me realize how much trust we all have in others when we are passengers. I have to work hard to keep  my mouth shut and not point out every little hazard that I see when Lindsey is practicing. She sees it, she's slowing and signaling appropriately, she needs to not rely on me to point this stuff out because I won't always be with her. It takes a lot of trust to be quiet and let her learn.

Let's just say she and I are out of our comfort zone, but getting comfortable there.

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