Summer driving

Most of our public, private and parochial schools are closed for the summer. Usually the beginning of the summer would signal the sighting of the ubiquitous, sometimes dreaded, driver education cars.

I have had the pleasure of teaching Driver Education for almost five decades. I have previously written columns with regard to “silly school” zones. I previously wrote a column using Major Brad Burkhart (and his daughter) as our models for safe driving. That was titled “Drive like you had a Hancock County Sheriff Deputy in your car.” I appreciated the loan of the Camaro Convertible from Dellen Automotive group.

I really enjoy teaching people how to drive. But I must confess it is a frustrating job. Why, you ask? It is frustrating because I see so many bad drivers on the roads today. I really do not believe that in 1967 people were that bad at driving.

Why is it different today? Our culture changed exponentially in 50 years. I would say mostly for the better. However, with change came a new breed of people.

I firmly believe most people have the words “I want to be important” tattooed on their chests. Today’s drivers feels their time is more valuable than yours or mine.

I am all about self-esteem and living life with gusto. The problem comes when you get behind the wheel of a two-ton (or more) automobile.

In my classroom portion of the class, I show DVDs of safe driving practices. One such video is a cartoon depicting various types of drivers. My favorite character is Goofy; he personifies the type of driver I see most. This driver is the typical road hog. They usually are a distracted driver. They typically have a mindset of “I own the road.” Volumes have been written about this person. They never give turn signals, do jack rabbit starts, tailgate and are usually texting or talking on a phone.

Did you know that in 2014 there were 3,179 people killed and 431,000 people injured in crashes involving distracted drivers? Furthermore, 10 percent of all drivers 15 to 19 years old involved in fatal crashes were reported as distracted at the time of the crash, according to federal government reports. Drivers in their 20s make up 23 percent of fatal crashes, but are 27 percent of the distracted drivers and 38 percent of distracted drivers using cellphones in fatal crashes.

Where am I going with all this? First, many studies have been done about young drivers. Many times I am asked which gender is the better driver. I would say that on average, the young ladies are better drivers. Do we ban cellphones from cars? I say no.

Did you know that when automobile manufacturers started adding the AM radio as an option, many people were distracted due to tuning the radio? There was a movement to ban them. Distracted driving. Interestingly enough, distracted driving is defined as any activity that could divert a person’s attention from the primary task of driving. This includes texting, cellphone usage, grooming and reading (including maps, remember those?).

Today, it would be a GPS, watching a video, adjusting a radio, CD player or MP3 player.

Before I leave the subject of driver education, I would love to tell you of a quick incident.

The other day I was having coffee with John May, a contractor in the Hancock County area. He posed the question: To your knowledge, are there any Driver Education cars with handicapped placards? The short answer is no. John’s concern was a Driver Education car illegally parked in a handicap zone. (It was not my car.) My point? We Driver Education teachers are held to a higher standard. The car I drive is emblazoned with our company logo. After more than five decades behind the wheel, I, too, can be a better driver.

I submit that we must do a better job of educating our young drivers. I would hope that when they are in their respective vehicles, they will apply the lessons that I and countless thousands have instilled in their brains. It also is our prayer that they will remain safe drivers throughout their driving careers.

C.O. Montgomery of New Palestine is a former teacher, Sugar Creek Township trustee and co-director of the Hancock County Character Council. Send comments to dr-editorial@greenfieldreporter.com.