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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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Saturday
Dec252010

Setting Out

Today marks a time that I have been imagining for nearly a decade now, when I first began thinking about writing a book about driving techniques that are truly practical in the real world.

The idea began, innocently enough, with questions. Why are people turning left on a red arrow? Can they really do that if there is an arrow? (It turns out you can in Washington state on a one-way street, as long as there is no sign present indicating you can’t.) And the admonishments from my husband at the time: Brake before you get into that curve, not while you’re steering into it. Why turn left when you could do three right turns? If you’re stuck behind that slow car, don’t ride on his tail and make him more nervous.

And then there were the speeding tickets. An inveterate leadfoot, I’ve gotten an appalling number of them. And yet, I haven’t been in an accident involving other cars, drivers, or pedestrians in 20 years. So, I started wondering about the connection between speed and safety: namely, that just going fast is not necessarily dangerous; it is the injudicious use of speed that gets you into trouble.

I love cars and I adore driving. Always have, since I was a toddler trying to blast my little white truck down the hallway linoleum as fast as my feet could push off the floor. As a teenager, I was so hungry to learn how to drive that I dreamed at night that I was behind the wheel, merrily going down the road. And when I started real driving lessons, the sensation was exactly as how I dreamt it. Being in motion and piloting a vehicle is in my blood, and 22 years and nearly a million miles later, I still relish that little anticipatory thrill every time I get behind the wheel.

But the road can be a dangerous place, and over the past decade, I have seen many small changes taking place that have morphed into a larger, alarming norm. General societal respect has declined while a sense of entitlement has crept up. More SUVs are on the road than ever before, altering the vehicular landscape in terms of safety and intimidation. Driven by a highly stimulating, hyper-reactive society, more people are acting under a false sense of urgency, always rushing and pushing the limits—witness the increasing number of drivers running red lights. And of course, our addiction to cell phones, texting, and tending to all manner of electronic devices has further eroded any focus and situational awareness we might have once had.

As I searched the local state transportation department’s motorist handbooks, I realized that while they have a good listing of basic laws and rules, they often fail to address the nuances of real-world driving conditions. So we adjust what we learned in our high school driver’s ed class to what works for our immediate needs, or what our parents (who may be just as ignorant) tell us. But too often we don’t ever get enough hands-on experience to learn what we really need before getting a license. Many of us eventually learn the hard way, getting into fender-benders, causing near-misses, and worse.

I hope this blog and my upcoming book, Driving in the Real World, will change this, to start a new way of thinking about driving that will turn into a national movement toward safety.

 

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Reader Comments (5)

Mi Ae: I had no idea about your car fixation, and even though my childhood was long before yours, I do remember being especially car crazy in my teens and exhilarated when I passed my driver's license test. Now I find driving quite tedious even though the traffic is not as bad in Portland as in the Seattle area. Although I enjoy the convenience of owning a car, I really admire the people I know who have given up their cars in favor of cycling, public transit, carpooling and the rent-by-the-hour companies like Zipcar. All of these solutions make environmental sense to me and the people who choose these options may be less harried than those of us who can jump in our cars and take off at a moment's notice. I hope you will be considering this perspective in your book!

Martha

December 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMartha Wagner

Your point is well-taken, Martha. A chapter of the book will be devoted to ways you can ease congestion through navigation techniques, and how you can help solve the problem, not become a part of it. It is true that by not using a car so much, this is far better for everyone. However, I would also point out that much of our country is just not properly set up for us to use public transit, with the lack of bus and light rail routes that are well thought-out, time-efficient, or even existent in rural areas. I know Portland is, happily, a rare exception to this. On the flip side, having better drivers on the road who actually watch out for the safety of pedestrians, scooters, bicyclists, and motorcyclists would help more people not be afraid to use these alternate forms of transportation too.

December 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMi Ae

Hi Mi Ae!
I love your idea and I too love driving, but also am sort of afraid of all the hazards. I just got a 1976 VW camper van and this has both added to the enjoyment of road travel (the old-school camper forces you to take your time, be extra careful and enjoy), and my fears (I'm riding around in a 1976 metal box with little protections and huge blind spots!). Looking forward to "hitting the road" with you here ;)
-Kara

December 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKaralynn Ott

Hi Mi Ae:

Portland is good on public transit and biking, and walking routes, too, but its reputation may exceed reality and as you know we do have a goodly amount of rain that makes a car quite nice at times. Car-sharing through a company like Zipcar is great for Portland and other cities; I read a while back about a program to encourage job seekers to get to out-of-the way interviews with the help of these short-term rental cars. One of my friends gave up her car a few years ago and lives around the corner from one of thre Zipcar parking spaces. She is saving a whole lot of money by using ZC, buses, and her feet! Where I live, in an urban cohousing community, a number of us who own cars are glad to share them with neighbors who choose not to own one. We are exploring more formal arrangements such as buying a community pickup truck. I agree that safer driving would be a good thing, too!
Martha

December 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMartha Wagner

Great idea! There is lots of work to be done.

You might want to address speed. There are three major concerns:

Force — Increasing your speed a little, increases the damage your vehicle will cause if you get in an accident by a lot.

Reaction time — Increasing your speed decreases your control over the car and your effective reaction time as well as the ability of others to react to you.

Pollution — I believe that the optimal speed for fuel efficiency has increased over the years, for most cars a 5 mph change can make a big change in efficiency.

The interesting thing about speed is that the relationship between speed and these three factors is not linear. A small change has a big effect. Most people probably don't realize this.

December 31, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterReggie McLeod

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