Monday, January 21, 2019

Point of no return  

Prior to coming to work for Nathan’s Driving School, I had driven a Semi Tractor and Trailer (a.k.a. Big Rig) for a few years; nationwide.   
The experience was mostly good.  The advantage was that I did get to see a lot of the United States.  One of the few dis-advantages was that I couldn’t stop long enough at some interesting places to wander around a learn about the area and its history.  Like many truckers, there are a lot of stories I could tell you.  One that comes to mind is the dear little old lady in Miami. 
I’m sure that a few of our classroom instructors are using diagrams and describing to you about a point in the turn at an intersection that they refer to as a point of no return.  I haven’t heard the lecture, but I’ve seen the drawing on the white boards in our classrooms at Nathan’s.  I’m sure that the instructors are informing our students that there is a point in a turn and in your decision making that you are committed to complete the turning procedure.  At that point, you need to proceed intentionally and without delay so that you are not barely moving onto the street that you have turned onto.  Another way to put it would be, once committed you need to keep moving and be assertive about the maneuver (notice I said assertive and not aggressive).  This is so you can get out of the way of oncoming traffic.  It’s not good to be hesitant during and after a turn.   
Let me give you aexample from my days as a truck driver. 
Do you know how much a car can weigh generally?  If you guessed between 1 to 2 tons, you’d be close to correct and in pounds that about 2,500 to 3,500 pounds-ish.  Let’s run with 2,000 pounds to make math easier for me (I am not a math person, but I get by).  So now that we have a general idea how much a car can weigh, do you know how much an 18 wheeler truck can weigh?  A Semi tractor / trailer rig, and this would be a “box” truck carrying dry goods, will weigh in at about 98,000 pounds fully loaded.  Wow!  That would be about 40 cars worth of weight.  Okay let’s let that sink in a sec.  You have most likely been exposed to science and physics etc.  That’s a lot of mass wouldn’t you say? 
How much distance does a car take to stop?  You probably heard this in class or will have.  At 60 mph a typical car takes about 239 feet – including reaction time.  This is 1 to 2 tons of car. 
How about that fully loaded 18 wheeler?  About 512 feet.  Doesn’t sound like much difference unless you are at the scene. 
I don’t want to blow things out of proportion here but let’s say you were in my seat in the truck and going about 45 mph on a 4 lane busy highway in Miami, Florida.  All lanes are full and it’s a sunny dry day.  I’m just going with the flow of traffic for the most part as the speed limit was 45 mph but you know how that is, few follow it…  When all of a sudden a sweet little old lady in a mid-size sedan pulls out in front of me about a half a block away from me.  The truck is heavy and loaded to the max.   
OH CRAP I’m going to hit her for sure   I slam on the air brakes and the trailer tires begin to lock up and smoke.  Meanwhile traffic in back of me and to the side of me panic and swerve to miss me because by now the trailer is starting to move from side to side.  I hit the air horn to encourage the sweet little old lady to get out of the way.  Because my friend, she is poking in the right lane and the left lane is full of cars.  Poking?  Yep about 10 mph I would guess.    
I hope y ou haven’t been in an auto accident and if you haven’t, I hope you never experience one.  I’ve been in two. 
The thing I remember most of both is the noise.  For a few moments in time it is complete crazy and noise. 
You can imagine how traffic around myself and the truck reacted.  Horns, skidding, dodging, tire smoke, more horns…  in a matter of seconds. 
And the little old lady?  All of this didn’t bother her one bit.  She just kept going straight on down the road at 10 mph as if nothing was happening. 
I did get slowed down enough to avoid hitting her and anyone else.  But the trucks front end was about 3 inches from the rear of her car.  I must have used about 77 angels with me that day.  I did have to pull over and stop for a minute or two to recover.  It scared me. 
To this day I doubt that the sweet little old lady ever knew.  She was oblivious to it all.  I would guess because of the noise and action and her reaction, she couldn’t hear or see much.  The moral of this story?  Had she just got up to speed during and after the turn there would have been no issue.  See you have to commit and move on down the road or you risk getting creamed.   
Well I guess the first moral is make sure no one is coming before turning right and make sure it isn’t a giant truck.  And had I hit her, she may very well have died. 
Learning to drive is tough for most.  If not for you, then be thankful and don’t get overly confident as there is more to it than an over confident student realizes.  
For those of you that find it scary at times and troublesome.  Welcome to the club, most of us went through what you are going though.  Learning to drive isn’t easy at times.  But keep your common sense about you and whatever you do don’t pull out in front of someone and when you turn – keep moving and get up to flow with traffic or the speed limit whichever is less. 
Drive safe and try to enjoy driving – it is fun and gets easier with practice. 
Check out stopping distances at this website:  

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Top 2 Important attributes of driving


If you are like me then you have your opinions about what makes a bad driver.  Typically changing lanes 2 or 3 or 4 lanes at a time tend to make you appear like you’ve lost your mind and scares the patooties out of everyone around you.  Some would say this behavior is a sure indicator of bad driving.   
Others might elaborate and point to people driving way too fast in a lane and then abruptly changing lanes to go around you then go back again in front of you.  And then continue to try to meet or break a land speed record down the highway (or in some cases a side street) - we have a saying around our house – Yikesome!   Yeah don’t do that okay?   
I would say generally, if you were to ask any driver that is reasonable and objective in their thinking, speed and lane changing are at the top of their list of bad driving attributes.  They may not say it like that but as they explain it, you’ll see these 2 attributes in their descriptions. 
While I was teaching drivers ed in the car, I’d tell my students that 2 factors usually lead to traffic problems and/or accidents.   
Those two are speed and distance.  Watch the news some evening and if they show you traffic problems or  fatalities on the road. Those traffic problems are usually attributed to those two items and the sad thing is that it’s completely avoidable. 
If you’ve done behind the wheel training with an instructor, then you may have been introduced to the fine art of merging into traffic on an “on ramp” such as GA 400 or I 285 “the perimeter.”   
Isn’t that just a joy to do for the first time?  Again, Yikesome!  See the word fits lol.   
If you think about this for moment, then you’ll realize that to do this successfully requires good judgement of (what else) control(speed) and distance.  You can see it’s important to understand and be aware of these two skills.  In fact, the better you understand and manage speed and distance the better a driver you become.  Does that sound like it’s worth your time to work on? 
Some people think that driving a car is just like watching TV.  You just turn it on and zone into the box and absorb what’s going on around you without much thought (kinda zoned-out) – maybe this is another sign of a bad driver – a zombie. 
Don’t be a zombie, be intentional in your driving and “in the moment” or aware of what’s going on right now. 
Ever wonder why the state makes such a big deal about parallel parking if no one does it much?  Well my friend it’s because of speed(control) and distance.  You need to control the car to get it into the space to park and you need to know the distance around the car to park correctly.   
Remember that you are proving to the state that you got both attributes handled and deserve the license.  Think about this a little bit more and you’ll see that the whole dang test is about these 2 items.   
 The driver’s license is not a given right:  it is a privilege.  You earn it - you don’t have it given to you.  How do you earn it?  By demonstration of control(including speed) and distance.  How do you keep it?  By demonstration of control(including speed) and distance. 
If you are a new driver or one that is currently learning to drive, do yourself a favorand don’t drive like the rest of the world out there, be a better driver and pay attention to control(speed) and distance.   
Find satisfaction in your driving and be safe. 

Posted by Joe Shenefield January 14th. 2019    

Which generation is the better driver?

When I taught behind the wheel, I would remind students that the future of our society rested upon their shoulders. I am sure that there was...