Drive in traffic as part of practice

PEMCO has a great pool of summer interns, and I’ll be tapping their sharp minds for blog fodder the next few weeks.
   Kerri, a senior at WSU, learned how to drive in Cheney, Wash., just west of Spokane. I asked Kerri if there’s anything she wished she had learned in driver training class to better prepare her.
   “Driving in traffic,” she said, noting that her instructor always sent her out on the road when traffic was light. She often drove during weekday school hours.
   “After I got my license, it was a bit of a shock to drive in congestion,” Kerri said, “and especially when I first drove in Seattle.”
   Beginning drivers and parents, take note. You know about that law requiring 50 hours of supervised driving, including 10 hours at night, right? You might want to use the latter part of it practicing in congestion.
   I’ve written before that the huge, unavoidable safety factor with new drivers is inexperience. It isn’t a matter of teens not wanting to drive safely. The challenge is, skill can come only with experience. And experience comes only from practice.
   I like to contrast learning to drive with learning to ski.
   With skiing, you start out on the bunny hill. As your skills improve you progress to beginner runs (usually denoted by green circles on terrain maps), intermediate slopes (blue squares), and advanced chutes (single or double black diamonds).
   You wouldn’t think of teaching a beginner to ski on black diamond runs with names like “Die Hard,” “Exterminator,” or “Whiplash.”
   Yet that’s precisely what we do when we matriculate 16-year-olds from driving school to rush-hour traffic in places like Seattle, Portland, or Tacoma. Especially after dark, in the rain.
   Kerri felt she received good training in driving school. The best schools do an excellent job of honing skills. Sometimes that includes driving in congestion.
   Kerri didn’t encounter much traffic in Cheney, so she felt a little anxious the first time she drove through rush hour in Spokane.
   Consider practicing in traffic before you do it solo for the first time. A new driver shouldn’t have to feel that hitting the road is like plummeting down Exterminator.

by  Jon Osterberg

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