So this year I had to take the written driver’s license test, which I have not taken in decades because they keep just renewing my license; and I thought I’d better do some studying first. I grabbed my old Driver’s Handbook from the last time I took the written test from my files and read it a few times. Now, some of you are wondering why I would have kept that old thing, but it was filled with great research information - reaction times, stopping distances, turning ratios at certain speeds, and all sorts of other wonderful things that have managed to make it into car chases I have written over the years. All of those things the Driver’s Handbook cautions you *not* to do are the very things people do in action movies - so now I knew what the limits were and how to use them to survive. I have a car chase where I used the reaction time thing so that my hero driving 90 mph could hit the brakes and stop before going off a cliff, but the villain’s reaction time coupled with the stopping time meant they would never be able to stop in time. Hey, the section on driving on icy roads is like notes for a car chase! The paragraph on speed and stopping distance between cars was a *warning* in the Handbook - but an invitation to write an action scene to me.
So the old Handbook was in a file cabinet with a bunch of gun brochures and Radio Shack catalogues.
But after studying the old handbook, I realized there were probably a whole bunch of new laws - so I went down to the DMV to get a new handbook an study up.
And that’s how I discovered why there are so many bad drivers in California.
They seem to have relaxed the laws to make them all more *convenient* for drivers.
The *old* handbook said that you could only make a U Turn where there was a sign that said U TURN OKAY... the *new* handbook said you could make a U Turn *anywhere* except where there was a sign prohibiting it. This explains all of those people making U Turns on the blind corners of Ventura Blvd where the speed limit is 40 mph... and all of those accidents that are the result of that.
The *old* handbook said if you were making a right turn, you had to make it into the right lane, and if you were making a left turn you had to make it into the left lane; the *new* handbook said that you could turn into *any* lane. Well, the problem with that is that in California you can make a right turn on a red - so if a car turning left ends up in the right lane and a car turning right ends up in the right land - you have a collision. That’s not to mention the confusion of places where there are *two* left turn lanes - and if both cars want to end up in the right lane after the turn - collision. I recently witnesses a fender bender on Ventura & Vineland where that happened - both cars turning left wanted to be in the right lane and hit each other. Going slow, no one was hurt, and they corrected after bumping into each other - but there was damage done to both cars... and it could have been worse. Sometimes it *is* worse and people die.
The new handbook had *nothing* about reaction time and stopping distances and all of the other cool *hard facts* about dangerous driving - that stuff was probably a downer, right? No one likes to be told that they need one car length for every ten MPH between them and the car in front of them to stop safely, right? Hell, at 40 mph that is about 80 feet - who leaves that much room between cars these days? We love to be almost bumper-to-bumper on the freeway at 60mph. And all of the other laws about unsafe turning speeds and construction zones (used to be 25mph or 10mph under the posted speed limit unless posted otherwise) but the new handbook list *no* construction zone speed limit at all - so just floor it!
The two things that managed to carry over from old handbook to new were the tricky things about which car had the right of way on a narrow mountain road and speed limits around school buses... but it seemed like the new handbook was “drive safe but don’t sacrifice convenience” and the old handbook was rules-rules-rules/safety-safety-safety. The old handbook was two hands on the steering wheel at all times in the 10 and 2 position, the new handbook didn’t even mention things like that because you might be eating a hamburger or putting on make up with that other hand.
What the heck? No wonder there are so many more poor drivers! No wonder there are so many more accidents! No wonder I keep almost getting killed while riding my bicycle every day! All of the safe driving laws they used to have, have been replaced for driver’s convenience! Sure - there are more accidents and near accidents, but at least you can make a U Turn in the middle of a blind corner on a street where cars are going 40mph! You didn’t have to drive until you found a safe street to pull onto and a safe place to turn around and then safely turn onto the street you began on in the opposite direction. It takes a lot of time to be safe - we have places to go!
We would rather do what is convenient than what is safe. Rather do what is easy than what is responsible. I’m not going to get into how that is reflected in many other parts of life in the USA - I’ll leave that to you - but it seems like we want to roll through a stop sign when it is convenient for us... but when some other driver does it (causing an inconvenience for *us*) we want them thrown in jail for life. We don’t want to drive safe, we want the other guy to watch out for us. We don’t want any law that is inconvenient to us - even if that law has a logical reason behind it and will save lives.
Don’t believe me?
California just voted to change the (new) law on texting and driving - it’s now *okay* to text and drive!
I guess not being able to text while tailgating at 60mph was inconvenient.
Passing the written test was way too easy.
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