Heels on Wheels: The Act of Driving

Interesting | March 13th, 2013 by 8
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I’m not old enough to say “back in the day” – in fact I’m nowhere near it, as the memories of secondary and post-secondary school are still decently vivid… And those include the days where we arrive for classes and would find the dented, smashed, dirtied, crushed cars on plinths on the grass right outside our high school and know that MADD [Mothers Against Drunk Driving] was there for another presentation.

MADD always started their presentations with videos of drunk driving crashes, and none have stuck in my mind as much as one that I still can’t quite grasp:

The light changes and a man crosses the street with it, while a car approached from behind. You’re shocked to see nothing happens as the car just passes through. But moments later the pedestrian, half way across the road, reacts to something off screen. From the opposite side of the intersection comes a car, already skidding along on its side curved in a slight U shape from the undercarriage. The pedestrian, reacting quickly, jumps up and is caught in the very center of the U of the undercarriage and stays there as the car slows down and topples onto its roof. The pedestrian gets up, stunned, and is able to walk away – having been just lucky enough to have jumped just high enough to be caught in just the right spot to come out alive.

This isn’t going to be a rant about drunk drivers – though I too am thoroughly against them – but about something else entirely, yet which is thoroughly related.

There are other things as dangerous as drunk driving, as shown in shows like Mythbusters and Canada’s Worst Driver, which include driving distracted, tired, angry and even driving when needing to pee. Drivers are becoming less aware of their cars, less aware of what they are component by component, and therefore their driving is getting more lazy, and more dangerous. Women especially are becoming notorious for shopping for ‘easier’ cars to drive.

Unlike most sixteen-year-old car enthusiasts, I did not go and get my driver’s license on the day I turned that infamous number and in fact waited until my early twenties before even considering it. I recognized at an early age that there is much more to driving than a gas pedal and a steering wheel and with my conditions – I suffered from a bad case of anemia which made me constantly very tired and drowsy as well as panic attacks that severely distracted my mind and created mood swings – I was not fit to drive. I took the responsibility of improving my condition before I moved forward with getting a license.

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I also decided to learn about cars and driving more thoroughly and decided that one day, when I did go for my license, I had to learn how to drive in its entirety. I would take expert driving classes (I still can’t wait to do those), learn both automatic and manual, take mechanics and repair classes, and even, with time, get licenses to as many things that move as possible – the more I would learn, the better. And even though I’m still in the early stages and these are all in my 5+ year plan, just planning these things made me even more of an enthusiast and made me passionate about ‘the Act of Driving.’

The ‘Act of Driving,’ though probably a pre-existing term, I have coined in my own vocabulary for meaning what you do when you sit in a car and basically what you should do, the one and only thing you should be doing, and what you should know how to do. Driving.

Canada’s Worst Driver is an absolutely terrifying show. Not only do some of these people ignore traffic signals and crosswalks, do their make up and text while driving and can’t accurately name the vast majority of signs they are shown – they know next to nothing about their cars and how to use them. Most cannot use mirrors or reverse properly, do not comprehend their turning circles and can’t wrap their mind about knowing where their wheels are – and forget understanding the concept of front end swing.

My father hated that I watched this show religiously since it first aired – fearing that seeing all these horrible drivers was scaring me out of getting my license. But realistically, it was helping my young mind understand what driving was all about and WHY some of these things – like knowing where your wheels are – are important. So before I hit the road, I was already understanding what I might encounter and what I should know to avoid the worst.

And there’s also the fact that realistically, one should understand that no matter how many seasons of Canada’s Worst Driver there is, horrible drivers will always exist. Never assume the people around you are as good of drivers as you are, and prepare for them making stupid mistakes.

You need to be a good, aware driver to make sure the mistakes of other drivers are not going to mean the worst result for you. I know it sounds backwards to be prepared to pick up the slack of others, but it really is in your best interest.

And ladies, a shout out to you – please just schedule more time in the morning for your make up routines. Seeing the clips of the female bad drivers putting on mascara and lipstick instead of concentrating on traffic is getting old. Fast.

And stop being afraid of your cars. Letting go of the steering wheel is a BAD IDEA. Seeing that is getting old too.

And although many good drivers reading this may say “I’m nowhere near that bad,” there are other things you may not realize affect your driving. Mythbusters have done a long slew of driving myths and the general result has been that if you are doing something other than concentrating on driving, you have poor results. This did include driving distracted, but has also included driving tired (being probably just as bad as being illegally inebriated) and driving while really needing a washroom.

But they have also tested the affect of mood on driving – although specifically on economy. They did prove that when driving angry (being pushed to the limit with a sticky steering wheel, rats crawling around their feet and one having just received a fish-tank foot bath) drastically increases your fuel consumption versus driving happy (the testers being extra zen after massages and baby animal cuddles). But by witnessing the tests you can see it also affects your driving ability – how you react to surprise circumstances and other drivers, and the answer for angry drivers is not well and with no visible patience.

In a general consensus, looking at both safe and economical, I agree with the words of Jeremy Clarkson – “It isn’t what you drive, it’s how you drive it.”

Although, I will not only conclude this page of notions with saying you need to know your car and the road and that you need to actively participate.

I am also going to say that this should also come into mind when you’re shopping. When looking at usability, economy, ride, safety, quality, etc to make the car realistic, you do also want to look at the things you like just to like it – whether it be the sleek and sexy style, or the growl of the engine, or the quality interior – and buy the car that feels right and not just the car that the math says you should have. A perfect combination of both that you would enjoy living with. Fun and practical.

Sensible and Sexy.

Although some may say I am being a horrible influence, take into mind the things I have just been saying. You need to be able to get in, sit down and drive in a good mood, completely awake and aware of what is happening around you all while ignoring your usual distractions – and this rules no matter who or what you are.

So if there is a vehicle where the steering wheel feels good in your hands, your foot is loving the pedal, the motor’s purr is music to your ears and your bottom is happily in the hug of the seat, then get it.

Like a good job, you’re not going to excel unless you love doing it. Like a good relationship, you’re not a good match unless you love being together.

And nothing is going to make you pay attention to the road like loving being there on it, in the car you’re meant to drive it in.