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D. P. Lubic

What might a driver licensing program look like if I were able to call the shots?

The first thing is that it would be much more rigorous intellectually than it is now. Both the training program and the written test would include sections on maintenance and navigation. You would know how to read a map and how often oil should be changed at the end of the day. Both of these are lacking in any driver licensing requirements I see, which emphasize following rules, laws, and driving slow.

Taking a cue from the air industry, instruction in actual vehicle handling would be in simulators with motion bases. The two big advantages of this are that simulators are cheaper to operate than cars, and in a simulator you can throw dangerous and even impossible situations at the subject in perfect safety. As it is now, too often you learn how to handle a bad situation, such as a slide on ice, by surviving it.

The actual driving test, like the training, would be in a simulator; I would go the limit and test to failure with a situation that would "kill" the driver. Airplane pilots go through such situations in their simulators, and it gives them a healthy respect for their mortality.

I like the idea of working in what I call a "nerve test" in the simulator. The instructor starts the test--bzzzzt!--with a situation in which the subject is driving down a two-lane road on a nice sunny day; speed limit 50 or 60 mph. It's nice enough that you are driving with the windows down, and a blower simulates the breeze, while climate control adds to the feeling of a beautiful, gentle spring day. Gee, you didn't know driver testing could be so nice. . .bzzzzt!

You come up behind a driver who is senile, or incapacitated, or drunk, or something. In any event, this driver is weaving badly and can not maintain a consistent speed, which varies between 25 to maybe 40 mph, often quite unpredictably. On top of this, passing even in places where it is permitted to do so is impossible because of approaching traffic. This goes on for miles and miles. . .bzzzzt!

A great big tractor-trailer is now behind you. You can hear the engine wind up and down as the driver constantly has to go through his 13 gears, along with a frequent hissing from the air bake system, as the driver compensates for those wildly varying speeds caused by the loopy driver ahead of you. That constant shifting and engine revving even sound angry; on top of that, partially because of the crazy situation, the truck has wound up so close to you that all you can see of it in the mirror display is a bit of the grill and perhaps part of the front bumper. Again, this goes on for miles and miles. . .bzzzzt!

As it has been a nice sunny day, you have the windows down to let in the fresh air, but now you also get to hear the truck driver's R-rated language, which is directed at the loopy driver ahead of you, but you are the one who has to listen to it. . .

How many people do you think we could rattle with something like this?

What other ideas might other readers have?

D. P. Lubic

You are right, Marlene; I've been saying for years that our driver licensing and training procedures are woefully inadequate, and have been so for decades. Changing that would require having a really thorough and rigorous driver training and licensing program that could have many aspects of airplane pilot licensing. Doing that, combined with a strong enforcement policy and mandatory retesting for license renewal, would weed out a lot of drivers who are incompetent, inept, or (hopefully) have just plain bad attitudes (i.e., overly aggressive).

It amazes me that people can be licensed who are deaf or illiterate. It is ridiculous that we allow people to operate cars who can not read maps or have no sense of navigation, nor have any idea of what proper maintenance should be. This doesn't mean they would necessarily have to do maintenance, but should know what needs doing, when it needs doing, and how to spot things that might come up outside normal maintenance cycles.

I remember being behind somebody in a pretty little black Thunderbird on a cold day. The car was belching blue smoke for miles, and eventually the driver had to pull over as more smoke billowed from under the hood.

I stopped to offer assistance to this fellow (he seemed to be a teenager). We opened the hood, waited for the smoke to clear, and the first thing I did was check the oil. The car had plenty of oil, but was as black and thick as tar. "I only changed the oil last year!" was the driver's comment.

Then I carefully checked the radiator. I should not have been able to touch it due to heat, but this one was cool! Very carefully I loosened the cap to vent the pressure; what came out, instead of steam and water, was a gentle "whoosh," then nothing. Very carefully, I removed the cap, and looked into the radiator to see--nothing. "Oh, you mean you have to put water in it?" said the driver.

How badly do you think this engine was damaged for lack of knowledge on how to care for it?

Marlene Henley

Cars should not be blamed in all these accidents in major cities of the state like Plano, TX; it should be the one driving it. Cars do not have a life and they don't move on their own. It is us humans that make it run. All that we need is discipline to abide traffic rules to avoid car collisions. More often than not, it is us that needs repair to make all the rules sink in.

D. P. Lubic

In other news, why we will need electric rail service, and sooner than anyone thinks:

http://rwer.wordpress.com/2011/02/19/graph-of-the-week-worlds-liquid-fuels-supply/

One approach as to how we might get it:

http://www.railsolution.org/uploads/PDF/Citizen_s_Guide_Chapter1b.pdf

D. P. Lubic

Is it the economy, or a longer trend? US auto scrappage rate is still higher than the replacement rate:

http://casafoodshed.org/archives/category/transportation/

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