I got my driver’s license the summer before my freshman year of college. Unlike many of my other friends, driving as soon as the law permitted me to do so (age 16) was just not important to me. I had other things I wanted to do. So I waited until that summer to enroll in driving school and take my driver’s test. I would have waited even longer because I wouldn’t have a car on campus that year so it seemed useless for me to get something I wouldn’t use. However my parents made the point that the longer I waited the harder it’ll be for me to get my license and also there could be an unforeseeable situation in which I would need to drive.
So I went to Driver’s Ed. and it took me two tries to pass the Ohio driver’s examination. I passed the written exam just fine. I passed the maneuverability part on the first try (with a penalty for having to start over once) and then I failed the driving portion for going too slow.
If you saw how I drive today you would laugh and question whether they gave that evaluation to the wrong person. The first year of me driving myself regularly to and from places, I was way, way too fast and reckless. And if you don’t believe me, you can ask the sheriff who gave me my first speeding ticket.
When getting that first ticket I did what any 19-year-old would do – paid it and didn’t tell my parents. Not telling my parents consequently set off an alarm with Karma, who must have been looking down on me that night. It was one speeding ticket which all I had to do was pay and be done with. But then I got a call from my parents one evening saying that a summons had been sent to the house for me to appear in court.
I was going to jail.
What happened was the clerk from the county office had made an error, sent a summons to the house by mistake, and now my parents knew about the ticket.
Funny how the universe works sometimes.
The way I see it, is that it was better for that night to have ended in a ticket rather than an accident. That ticket was the universe’s way of warning me to be more careful about how I behaved on the road. Also, Karma was reminding me that even as an assumed adult, parents are still the almighty.
One Line Lesson: Never hide anything from your parents and Karma is always watching.
If you get a speeding ticket or get pulled over by a cop, stay calm, be respectful, learn from it, and be grateful that the piece of paper they give you is just a piece of paper at the end of the day.
I feel sort of on a roll right now, so in order to wear myself out some more I have come up with a handful of lessons I have learned from my first year of driving.
Driving Tips for Newbies from a (Semi) Newbie
1. It took me perhaps a month to get used to the concept of locking the car before leaving it until it became natural habit. Silly but true. Always lock the car.
2. The maneuverability test may be annoying to pass, but it is actually incredible important to know how to parallel park/get yourself out of tight spaces. This is especially important for the city.
3. New York driving is not the same as driving. Be ready for aggressiveness.
4. There was a man at my synagogue who was one of the Sunday school teachers and whenever he taught someone how to drive he first asked them “What am I here to teach you?” The answer according to him was that he was there to teach them “how to control a machine that could kill someone”. That is exactly right. That is ultimately what you’re doing when driving – you are controlling a machine that could kill someone. Driving is a huge responsibility that should not be constantly fretted over but always given its due diligence.
5. “Respect the road and what your car can do” – My Mother
6. Knowing whether to keep going or slow down when approaching a yellow light takes experience to not completely butcher. It depends on how your car brakes, what speed you’re currently driving at, and what is safe for the situation. If you go through a light too late, just learn from it (and hope there wasn’t a traffic camera nearby).
7. If you do not feel safe in making the turn, backing out, reversing, whatever it is you are doing, don’t do it. Even if the cars around you are honking or the people in the car are yelling at you, make the move when you feel it is safe to make it – because ultimately you’re the one responsible for all those in the car, including yourself.
8. Towards the end of the summer when I got my driver’s license, my father said to me, “Hailey, I have taught you everything I could. Everything else will come from experience”. There comes a point, like with many other things, where the textbook cannot help you anymore. You must go out and use a combination of what you have learned with what feels right to you to just start doing it. The rest will come with time.
9. You’re going to get honked at. Get over it. It happens all the time to everybody.
10. Enjoy the journey.
If you have a story in which Karma chose to pick on you for the day or a driving related story, let me know in the comments below.
Housekeeping Note: The car pictured above is my 2010 Subaru Legacy named Hubert with my miniature Winnie the Pooh who keeps me safe on the road.
The key ring pictured above is my own personal key ring. The key ring holds on it a Lego ducky which I got from a robotics competition, a blue bicycle that doubles as a bottle opener, a double sided screwdriver for glasses, and the Micro Beam Car Key Chain from Things Remembered (my mother bought it for me when I got my license and had them engrave the phrase “Always Drive To Your Dreams” on the tag of it).