Thursday, September 15, 2016

Driving with Idiots

   Let's talk about something that probably bothers all of us, but REALLY bothers me, bad drivers. Driving is what I do all day, every day. I own a small transportation company, taking the less fortunate to their doctor's appointments or to the hospital. We have a fleet of three drivers and vehicles. We see a lot of stranger things as move around the city and State.
   I calculated the other day that I have racked up in my driving career over two million driving miles, with not one accident charged to my fault. There have been more than a couple morons banging into me, but to God's good grace, and to some good habits, I have not caused any accidents over the years.
   If you have read this blog long enough, you know I am writing a memoir and it is about my bout with over twenty-five years with chronic migraines and eighteen years with depression. This was caused by a series of concussions, originally starting as far back as high school sports and one by a traffic accident in high school, a rear-ender.
   It was that rear-ender that scared the crap out of me, as I was just 17 at the time, to want to gain more skill as a driver. I had been stopped at the time and was hit from behind and could do nothing. I was heavily into bowling and was getting good and told my parents I was going to Phoenix (we lived in Tucson at the time) for a tournament, and at the age of 18, I traveled to Riverside, California to the Bob Bondurant School of Driving for five days.
   It was a special course I enrolled in, a combined defensive driving and high speed course. Over the years, that course has saved my life and people in the car with me countless times. We had sixteen students during those five days. We used Porche 935 Turbos. We were on both road courses and an oval. The first thing out of their mouth-Lesson#1-The brake is NOT your friend. The gas pedal is your friend IF used correctly. You lose all control with the brake. An instructor went with each student each day and we were shown what they meant.
   Over the years, in conjunction with the next and MOST important thing taught to us, I avoided countless accidents by NOT hitting the brake, but just letting off the gas, steering through the hazard, and moving on.
   The most important lesson learned? Spacing. I can't stress that enough. If you were to ride with me, you would see me looking at the mirrors CONSTANTLY. I never stop. When I say spacing, I don't mean just the spacing in front of you. I mean the spacing beside you too. Everywhere. I look for spacing all around me. If I am on the big Interstate around our city, I-465, with three or four lanes each direction, I seek to have no cars at least on one side of me at all times and plenty of space in front of me and behind of me.
   We all know there are tons of idiots out there who love to tailgate. That bothers the crap out of me too. Just ask my wife about that. I will slow a little if I have to so they will move on just to get that spacing back. Why is spacing so important to me? Unexpected events. You never know when something is going to happen and you need a way out.
   Let me give you a real life example that happened to Lana and I. This past spring we were coming back from Cuba, Missouri from vising my parents. We were entering the outside of St. Louis. Interstate 44 went to three lanes. The temperature was in the 50's and it was lightly raining. It was a late Sunday morning and traffic was moderate. I chose the far inside lane. Because of spacing, I had the wide shoulder to the inside to go to and the middle lane as traffic was well behind me in the middle lane there. I was planning to move over in about a mile, once we got past a town where traffic would enter.
   The road had a gentle winding to it, back to the left and then again to the right, with hills. Up in front of me, there were three cars, close together to each other, but a quarter of a mile from us. As we passed through one of these tight turns, I checked my mirrors and the spacing of everyone around me. It was good. Remember, it was raining. As we came through the turn, the car in our lane in front of us a quarter of a mile, lost control and spun, hitting the car next to it.
   Driving as long I have and going through that course, even over forty years ago, you know how people will react. They panic and they look at accidents instead of taking care of themselves. The third car in the cluster up ahead made it through and pulled to the inside to see if they could help. I never looked at my mirrors because I knew where everyone already was. I looked ahead. To our right was one car who was hitting the brakes, panicking. He had been in the far right lane, completely out of our way. I watched him to make sure he didn't do something stupid. I had let off the gas but never hit the brakes. On wet pavement, hitting the brakes hard meant going into a skid myself, which is exactly what the car in front and to the right of us did. All this time we were moving to the right across three lanes.
   I felt Lana grip her armrests. I took my last look at the mirrors. Everyone was on their brakes and skidding behind us. I gently got on the gas and we were on our merry way.  Total time? Maybe eight seconds. It was all about spacing.
   Take it from someone who drives a lot. Gives yourself some room from the idiots. You don't want to be standing next to one in a store, so why do you want to drive next to one? 

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