Sunday, April 15, 2012

Hey Missouri! LEARN TO DRIVE!!! - or - Why it's a good thing I don't have to commute

From time to time, I could probably be accused of road rage.  There I said it.  My kids will probably react to this statement with, "About time."  I know I make bonehead mistakes on the road every now and then - everybody does.  But come on.  There are mistakes and then there is just crappy driving abilities.

I used to think downtown Chicago drivers were the worst, but that was around the time with Indiana spit me out and I landed in the suburbs.  It took some getting used to.  Plus, Chicago drivers were amusing.  Who doesn't appreciate a south sider driving his 1976 Impala, 20 miles an hour over the speed limit on the Dan Ryan, weaving between vehicles in serpentine precision,  with his "force field" (emergency blinkers) on?  

After we moved to Central Illinois, I thought some of the worst drivers in the world had congregated there.  4 way stops could be infuriating because everyone was too polite to just GO!  Like everything else, State Farm even impacts the flavor of drivers on the road, bringing in people from all over the world and plopping them and their cars in the midst of corn field after corn field.  But Bloomington/Normal is a small community.  I could work around these people.  

St. Louis is something different all together.


The bigger the vehicle, the smaller the space between my back bumper and their headlights. The spread gets even narrower when I'm driving the Miata.  EVERYONE tailgates down here.  EVERYONE.  And 3 out of 5 people own a vehicle big enough to soak up $200 worth of gas with every trip to the station.

Everyone speeds.  I got flipped off one time for going only 5 miles an hour over the speed limit   on the way to the mall.  

I have never driven into the city without seeing furniture on the side of the road.  Recliners seem to be choice for Rt. 70.  There are only 2 explanations for this.  (1) Someone got tired of driving and decided they needed a little rest - STAT! or, most likely, (2) the idiots hauling this stuff don't tie it down properly and it falls out of the back of their truck.  I swear, scenes from the movie "Final Destination" flicker through my head every time I get behind the wheel.  

I'm not just being paranoid!  I was driving on Hwy 370 a couple weeks ago, when a piece of plywood flew out of the back of a truck and flew right at me.  Luckily, it bounced in front of me and went under the car.  My license plate took the hit instead of my windshield.  

I finally figured out why poor driving skills are so predominate here.  The following is an excerpt from the MODOT site concerning requirements for teenage drivers.  See if you can spot what is missing.  (If you don't want to play the game, you can skip to the end.  It's lengthy.)

Rights and Responsibilities
Driving can be a complex task for all new and experienced drivers.  For young drivers, driving can be more difficult, and inexperience can be lethal.  Traffic crashes are the leading cause of death for those between the ages of 15 and 20 years of age.  Therefore it is important for you, as the parent or guardian, to get involved.  As a parent or guardian, you have the potential to reduce the driving risks by carefully monitoring your teen's training and driving experiences during the first year of driving.
Once you determine your teen is ready and decide to take them to your local examination station to begin the process to obtain his or her learner’s permit, you will now have responsibilities that will require you to be involved in your son or daughters driver training.

Parent/Teen Driving Agreement

One step to ensure clear communication of driving rules between you and your new driver is to complete a parent/teen driving agreement.  This contract is recommended as a way to encourage discussions about safe and responsible driving between the parent/guardian and teen driver.   You may use the Parent/Teen Driving Agreement created by the Department of Revenueor develop your own agreement outlining the family rules related to driving, curfews and responsibilities of the new driver and the role you will take as well.

Your Rights

Your teen’s readiness to drive must be determined by you, not just by his or her age. Until your teen turns 18 years of age, you have the right to approve or deny your teen’s application for a Missouri instruction permit or intermediate license.  Your signature is required on the application before your teen may obtain either one of these driving documents.
If you choose to deny your teen's instruction permit or license after it has been issued, you must complete theParental/Guardian Request to Deny or Reinstate Driver License (Form 4811). To reinstate your teen’s privileges you must submit the same form marking request to reinstate.
As the parent or guardian, you have the authority to set more stringent restrictions regarding where and when your son or daughter may operate the vehicle, and with whom.  While the Missouri Graduated Driver License (GDL) law defines requirements for nighttime driving limitations and passenger restrictions, you have the right to set additional restrictions for your new driver.

Your Responsibilities

Determine if your teen is ready to drive.

Does your son or daughter show overall good judgment?
Is your son or daughter willing to follow state driving laws and restrictions as well as your family driving rules?
Talk to your teen about driving before they apply for the instruction permit.  Discuss with your teen the risks and responsibilities of driving; before, during, and after the licensing process.
Empower your teen to speak up against peer pressure.  Being a passenger in another teen’s car can put your son or daughter at risk.  An estimated 59 percent of teenage passenger deaths occur in vehicles driven by another teen driver.  Peer pressure can be both positive and negative.  Reinforce the importance of your teen speaking up or not taking the ride in potentially dangerous situations to lessen the risk.
At the time of application for the instruction permit, you must sign your name to certify that you will ensure your son or daughter receives a minimum of 40 hours of behind the wheel driving instruction with a minimum of 10 hours nighttime driving between sunset and sunrise.
As soon as your teen receives his or her instruction permit, you should notify your insurance company.  Let them know what vehicle or vehicles your teen will be driving.
Set clear sensible rules for your teen, and enforce the rules with consistency and appropriate consequences.  You can use the Parent/Teen Driving Agreement to help establish these limits and consequences.  If you prefer, you can develop your own "contract", or find another format through various online resources related to teen driver safety.
There are resources available to assist you while training your new driver.  There is a Driver Experience Log (Form 4901) for you to track the hours of training received.  This is simply a tool for you and your new driver, and does not need to be submitted to the Department of Revenue at the time of licensing.
There is a Safe Driving – Guide to Teaching the New Driver workbook available in most Missouri State Highway Patrol examination stations, and your local license office. This workbook is a tool to guide you through the processes of teaching your teen to drive.

Here is a small list of resources and information also available online:

The Missouri Driver Guide is the best resource for learning the laws and regulations for driving in Missouri.   The Missouri Driver Guide may be obtained at your local license officeMissouri State Highway Patrol Troop Headquarters, or at a Missouri State Highway Patrol examination station.

Licensing Requirements and Restrictions

Why does Missouri have a Graduated Driver License (GDL) law?

The Graduated Driver License (GDL) law was implemented in Missouri on January 1, 2001.  The law was enacted in an effort to reduce the number of traffic crashes and fatalities for teen drivers by requiring young drivers to obtain stages of behind-the-wheel driving experience prior to obtaining their full license privileges.

Instruction Permit – Minimum Age 15

Teen must complete the written driver examination at a Missouri State Highway Patrol examination station.  After completing the testing, you must accompany your teen to a license office to obtain the Missouri Instruction Permit document. The test paper issued by the examiner, alone, is not valid for driving purposes.
You (the licensed parent, legal guardian or a certified instructor with a Federal Residential Job Training Program) must accompany the teen to the license office and sign the application for permit, certifying that you will ensure the teen receives a minimum of 40 hours of behind the wheel instruction with a minimum of 10 hours nighttime driving.
While operating on an instruction permit, a driver who is 15 to 16 years of age is restricted to operating only with a parent, legal guardian or certified instructor with a Federal Residential Job Training Program.
If the permit holder is age 16 or older, they must be accompanied by a licensed driver who is a least 21 years of age or older, occupying the front seat next to the driver.
Seat belts are required to be worn by the driver and all passengers.
The Instruction permit may be renewed if additional training time is required.

Intermediate License – Minimum Age 16

Teen must have held an instruction permit for a minimum of 6 months.
Note: The examination record (D-100 or E100) from the Missouri State Highway Patrol alone is does not meet this requirement and is not legal for driving.  
Teen must have completed 40 hours of behind- the-wheel instruction which included a minimum of 10 hours nighttime driving.
Teen must not have a suspended, revoked or denied driving privilege.
Teen cannot have any alcohol-related offenses within prior 12 months, or any traffic conviction within prior 6 months.
When your teen has met the training requirements noted above and you are ready to grant them the privilege to drive, they must complete the driving skills examination at your local Missouri State Highway Patrol examination station. The teen must bring their valid Missouri Instruction Permit with them at the time of examination.
You (the licensed parent, legal guardian or a certified instructor with a Federal Residential Job Training Program) must accompany the teen to the license office and sign the application for intermediate license, certifying that the teen has received a minimum of 40 hours of behind the wheel instruction with a minimum of 10 hours nighttime driving between sunset and sunrise.
Your teen will also be required to complete the vision examination and road sign recognition test.

Did you catch it?  No driver's education classes required.  Parents are required to teach their kids.  Bad drivers teaching more bad drivers to drive.  Can you imagine the spiral effect here? By the time the next generation trains their kids, there will be mayhem in the streets!!! 

There's no beating them, so I guess I'll have to join them.  

So don't be surprised if the next time you see me, I'm in your rearview mirror, centimeters from your bumper driving a Ford Super Duty with a living room's worth of furniture in the bed, sans any tie downs.

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