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ABOUT DRIVING IN THE REAL WORLD

Driving in the Real WorldTM is a change agent for driving safely and efficiently in the real world. Many driver's education programs, especially in the United States, do not adequately train people in hazard perception, risk management, and proper handling of the complex challenges of everyday driving. Through its blog, social media, and upcoming subscription newsletter, DITRWTM offers tips, techniques, and reflections on driving that will improve your situational awareness and may even save your life and that of others.

There is an enormous need to make our roads safer by making it socially unacceptable to be a bad driver in America, regardless of the cause. We must completely rethink how we drive and how we teach it, and then make the driving test something to actually be respected. Driver's ed should also be a lifelong learning process. And I believe that this can be achieved in much more fun, enjoyable, and experiential ways than it is often presented now.

Many people don't realize this, but what makes you a better driver also improves you in many other areas of life. This involves honest self-examination of our core values as both a society and the individuals that constitute it, and truly making the necessary changes to improve our attitudes on the road.

Thank you so much for visiting. I invite readers to share their own experiences and reflections on driving, to suggest ideas on the subject, and to follow me on Twitter (@DrivingReal).

—Mi Ae

 

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How Did I Get Started in All This, Anyway?

My name is Mi Ae Lipe, and I simply adore cars and driving. Born in South Korea and adopted as an infant, I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area right as Silicon Valley was emerging. After ridiculously falling in love (like a girl might with a boy) at the impressionable age of 11 with a stunning mauve 1980 Lincoln Continental Pucci Edition Mark VI, I was hooked on all things automotive. For years, I dreamed about having a career in automobiles, either as a designer or a quality control expert.

When I was 18, I got my driver's license and promptly got a job driving rental cars from one location to another for a living. That experience quickly taught me that nothing that I had learned in my high school driver's ed had properly prepared me for life on real-world roads, especially when it came to freeways and very tight parking lots. Like most new drivers, I learned by trial and error—and a few fender-benders.

I eventually moved to the Midwest, where I spent 13 years living and working in Wisconsin and Minnesota, as well as learning to drive on ice and snow. Later I relocated to Seattle, where I still reside. My continuing ties between the West Coast and the Midwest have resulted in far too many road trips to recall. All the while I've been doing plenty of driving and observing life on the road—over a million miles worth in the past 26 years.

Several years ago, after pondering the alarming deficiencies of yet another state motorist handbook and witnessing the vagaries of drivers after yet another cross-country jaunt, I decided to start research on a book I'd planned to write, called Driving in the Real World. However, I soon realized that it would make better sense to expand DITRW into a bigger, multichannel mission that would impact driver education and traffic safety culture in America and beyond.

When I'm not stuck in atrocious Seattle traffic, I lead a couple of other lives. One is as a freelance graphic designer and editor (www.whatnowdesign.com), whereby I help authors and companies self-publish books and other long documents, create unique marketing collateral, and develop corporate branding. The other is that of author myself; my latest book is Bounty from the Box: The CSA Farm Cookbook (www.bountyfromthebox.com)

What Are Your Qualifications?

I have no formal background as a driving instructor, traffic safety expert, researcher, or academic. I am just an unusually passionate citizen who is simply tired of all of the bad driving around me, and I believe I can do something about it.

My incessant, pesky curiosity has led me on some remarkable adventures over the years, I've been researching techniques and training methods for many different types of driving, including street, high performance, teen clinics, evasive, autocross, and rally to get different perspectives on what constitutes safe, smooth, effective driving in a wide range of vehicles and conditions. In particular I've studied the system of car control, a proven driving methodology pioneered in the UK with roots in police driving training (sometimes known as Roadcraft).

To this end, I hold a Bronze driver qualification from Advanced Drivers of North America, which teaches an adapted version of this system for civilian street driving in the United States. (I might add that this has been no small feat for a reforming crappy American driver like me, who was never trained properly to begin, has had to relearn just about all the basics, and break 30 years of bad habits in the process.)

My biggest interests lie in better driver education—specifically situational awareness and hazard perception—as well as in holistic, experiential teaching and learning solutions rooted in common sense, social sciences, and psychology to raise road safety awareness and actually change culture. My basic philosophy: Good data and science are absolutely necessary, but effective, intelligent social action can make them even better.

What Do You Actually Do?

In this work, I frequently collaborate with government agencies, NGOs, and private entities as a change agent, and also regularly present at driver association conferences and car clubs. Another private citizen advocate and I have been exploring improving driver training and testing with state agencies, driving schools, and other stakeholders in Washington State. In September 2016, we, along with several others from state government and the driver training industry, traveled to the UK to learn about their traffic safety ecosystem, widely acknowledged as one of the best in the world. What we witnessed was mind-blowing in its integrity, quality, and scope, and we hope to introduce aspects of this system to reduce collisions and serious injuries for new generations of young drivers in our state.

I have been a member of the Washington State Traffic Safety Commission (WTSC)–led Young Driver Task Force since 2012. Along with fellow citizen Mark Butcher, we are the recipients of a 2015 WTSC Target Zero Award and the 2017 NHTSA Public Service Award for our work in reducing young driver collisions and fatalities in our state.

I also write extensively for the BMW Car Club of America, with a monthly street driving column in its national magazine Roundel, and also pen a similar column for Zündfolge, the magazine of its Puget Sound Region chapter. Other writing credentials include Roadio.com, an online magazine for UK driving instructors and an article cowritten with Candace Lightner, the founder of MADD, on the subject of drugged driving. I also Tweet daily driving news links and tips on Twitter at @DrivingReal.

Last but not least, I'm a bit of a car club slut. Besides belonging to the local BMW Club chapter, I'm also a long-time Audi Club NW member and served a three-year stint as the newsletter editor for Fiat Enthusiasts NW.

 What Do You Drive?

My "mistress car" is a highly spirited, immensely fun E90 2009 BMW 335xi coupe, on which I'm learning to master stick-shift driving—in stop-and-go Seattle traffic and steep hills as well as on the racetrack. When I'm on cross-country tours for my cookbook, my "good-wife" car is a 2016 Subaru Outback, affectionately nicknamed "Nelly," in which I'm having fun figuring out how to outwit her driving assistance technologies. You can read more about how these cars change my driving behavior in my blog post "Driving Miss Nelly."


Photo by Ken Dwinell.