By Jordan W. Charness; photo courtesy

“Talia, I need an idea for this week’s column. What did you learn in driving school this week?”

My 16-year-old daughter is taking driving lessons. Around here, she has to take lessons throughout an entire year and drive as much as she can with a responsible adult in order to prepare for her driving tests, which will probably be taken right around her 17th birthday.

Truth be told, she drives pretty well, most of the time. The scary thing is that by her driving so well that she lulls you into a false sense of security, and I, as an accompanying driver, will sometimes let my attention wander or even answer a cell phone call! This is not a good idea.

When we were in the car last week, she was driving in the middle lane and wanted to change into the left-hand lane. She spent so much time and effort concentrating on making sure that the left lane was clear so that she could move over that she did not notice that she was drifting into the right lane. The driver in the car in the right lane honked his horn and I had to grab the wheel and push us back into the centre lane where we belonged. My cell phone went flying and knocked over the bottle of water that was in the cup holder, splashing us both. It serves me right for not giving her my full attention.

Talking about attention, we recently allowed her to drive on the highway as we were going on a seven-hour trip; this time I paid full attention. It took her a little while to get used to the way the car handled at highway speeds, but once she did she drove the long straight highway like a pro.

Personally, I like highway driving and find it calming and relaxing. I asked her how she liked it was surprised to hear that she hated it. She said she found it too monotonous and that most of her friends felt the same way. Kids of her age are used to being stimulated by their cell phones and computers and doing more than one thing at once. Driving a long straight road was not mentally challenging enough for her!

Fortunately she is mature enough to realize that a split-second of inattention could have disastrous consequences and she did drive carefully for the whole two hours that she drove.

So when I asked her for an idea for this week’s column, she said that her instructors spend many hours drilling into the students that they need to pay attention at any time they are behind the wheel. Most recently the instructor discussed how dangerous driving around a curve is. He pointed out that a car has a natural tendency to drive straight and will not go around a curve without precise input from the driver. Leaning over to change the radio or “pick up your lipstick” can easily result in a missed curve and driving off the road and into a tree, or accidentally pulling the wheel too far and driving into oncoming traffic.

What he hadn’t yet tought her is that that moment of inattention around a curve could also lead to criminal code charges being laid against the driver for dangerous driving. It can also lead to raised insurance rates, tickets and demerit points: all that for just seconds of inattention going around a curve. When you think about it, every curve can be a dangerous curve.

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