Let's get serious about driving
April 4, 2012 · 10:57 AM
I read with interest Kevin Endejan's column, “Let's Learn to Merge” (Bellevue Reporter, March 30). You have hit the nail right on the head.
We also need to learn how a stop sign works. It rotates to the left: the driver to the right having the right of way, regardless of who got there first.
This lack of knowledge manifests itself greatly when there is a power outage and the traffic signals stop working.
I was born and bred in Los Angeles, leaving there in 1981 and never to return (with the notable exceptions of Disneyland, The Reagan Library, The Huntington Library and to visit family). I have lived and driven in various places around the country, including Houston, Phoenix, Reno (Lake Tahoe), Sacramento and Seattle.
When we left California, stopping on a freeway on-ramp when you simply “chickened out” could result in a very stiff fine and possible suspension of your license. But that was in the '70s.
The most aggressive drivers I have found are in Phoenix. When we left Phoenix in 2003, it had the highest accident rate in the nation. This translates into the highest, or second highest, insurance rates in the nation.
In contrast, the drivers here seem to drive stupidly.
Arizona doesn't take driving seriously. When my daughter received her license at age 18, the card said it expired when she turns 65. When we moved to Phoenix in 1996 I was 49, and my new license expired, you guessed it, when I turned 65. Do you honestly think that I will not pick up any bad habits in that time?
The best driving tests I encountered were in California. A very comprehensive written and a reasonable practical (driving) test. In Arizona and Washington, these are jokes. Texas had really dumb questions on the written exam, like: “How many points to you get on your license if you...?” Who cares? You just need to know that you don't do that.
My proposal would be to make driver's license renewal much more comprehensive. Renew every four years, with a comprehensive weighted written and a serious driving test. The cost? I would suggest $50. If you can afford to own and drive a car, you can afford to pay $50 every four years to get your license renewed.
I would also propose stricter enforcement. When that person doesn't want to wait in line for the off-ramp and blocks traffic when trying to get in at the last moment, a traffic citation would be in order. And if he misjudged and didn't realize that a line was forming, there is another off-ramp farther down the freeway.
More unmarked patrol cars would be a nice thing too. One evening I was on I-405 in moderately heavy traffic when a car zoomed around me, cut me off, zoomed up and cut off another driver. He (or she) did this a couple of more times before he cut off a Chevy Suburban. As soon as he did, the Suburban lit up like a Christmas tree. It was an unmarked patrol car.
With that said, we need to keep in mind that really good drivers sometimes make mistakes. It is all part of being human. I would much rather be stopped and given a recorded warning the first time I made an honest mistake than to let it slide and be cited when I make the same mistake again and do some real damage.
All of this would translate into better commutes and lower insurance rates. And cooler tempers.