Over the past few months I’ve spent dozens of hours cruising across southern Minnesota between two small rural towns.
Regularly navigating Highways 3, 60 and 169, with occasional jaunts along I-35, has provided an up-close-and-personal look at others’ driving skills.
Those factors, combined with decreased work gigs (news flash: COVID-19 shutdowns adversely affect writers and musicians!) plus my recent arrival at that gateway age of 55, led me to a money-saving effort: the Minnesota Mature Driver Program.
Argh!! The phrase alone conjures an image healthy 55-year-olds do not readily seek to associate with themselves: a stoop-shouldered, gray-haired octogenarian barely peering over the Buick’s steering wheel, oblivious to passersby and traffic flow.
But in a bid to save a percentage of insurance dollars (percentages vary, dontcha know, among insurance companies — that’s a tip for the final exam), I reluctantly began the eight-hour online course.
Fortunately, it’s organized in units you can revisit when convenient — and you’re allowed up to TWO YEARS to complete it, though why anyone would push it for that long is a mystery.
My groans were quickly replaced by guffaws. Has this been milked for a comedy routine?
Despite sobering statistics, like 32,367 fatalities during 2011 due to U.S. vehicle crashes, the course was … hysterical.
Determined to pass the final with the requisite 80% minimum, I took copious notes. Often I laughed out loud: the amount of head-swiveling, scanning, counting, checking and filtering a driver should do, all in an effort to compensate for our daily decline of physical and mental competencies, was startling, not to mention difficult to track.
We’re to avoid distractions but also constantly count to maintain certain safe intervals between vehicles both in front, behind and beside us.
Ideally, we shouldn’t eat, drink, talk, turn on the radio or sweat while driving, much less dare to THINK about anything other than operating the motor vehicle, and the ever-present danger of crashing, while motoring.
Oh, and don’t forget to avoid ALL INTERSECTIONS because those are the most likely junctures at which accidents occur.
Never drive when fatigued, hungry or jacked up on too much caffeine, much less when you’re being emotional. Naturally, this means not engaging in any hot-tempered conversations with passengers, whether with kids, spouses or elderly parents debating the need for the doctor’s appointment to which you’re currently en route.
Don’t drive if you have any known medical conditions, compromised visual acuity, hearing deficiencies or STRESS.
Be aware at all times of every aspect of your vehicle’s mechanisms and know the meaning behind EACH TRAFFIC SIGNAL ever created by humankind.
Practice identifying high-risk traffic situations and be always mindful of potential “escape routes” should a collision be imminent.
Pack so much gear for potential emergencies (first aid kits, gloves, hand tools, pocket knives, flares, blankets, white flags, jugs of water, flashlights, extra clothing, cat litter, ice scrapers/brushes, food, disposable cameras, pens, notebooks and jumper cables) that you won’t have to worry about conversing with passengers because there will simply be no room for them.
Above all, STAY CALM AND FOCUSED.
Being alerted to the limitless calamities and dangers associated with driving was … incredibly stressful. If mature driver rules were followed to the letter, by my estimation there is an approximate 15-minute window on any given day when one can drive, and then only while circling an empty parking lot reached without somehow crossing an intersection.
That 15-minute period would occur when it’s not too bright or dark, when you’re not too tired, wired or worried, when the pavement is neither too wet nor too hot, when you’re not too hungry, sleepy or preoccupied.
Nevertheless, my family attests that my driving and attentiveness have improved, so “I Drive Safely” was successful — and I scored 92% on the final, first time out of the blocks.
Insurance discount for the win; hoping to stay alive well past 55.
Check out Time for Moore, Jane Turpin Moore’s blog, at https://timeformoore566445504.wordpress.com