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Driving Advice for Sue

Symptom Identified: Driving right up behind someone before realizing there is a problem.

This is a common symptom among untrained drivers. The cause is invariably looking at the road too close to your car - maybe 30 or 40 feet. Sue’s attention should be directed far ahead - over 300 feet.

This will result in seeing problems before they develop. It will improve her driving to an amazing extent.


(former driving instructor)

This is also common among rush hour commuters here in Atlanta.


Were you ever a driving instructor in Ohio, or are all driving instructors apparently named Ken??

In training for my CDL (that’s Commercial Driver’s License) several years ago, the company that employed me had a professional instructor who taught defensive driving. They taught that we should look 15 seconds ahead. That’s a whole lot more than 300 feet. It’s a quarter of a mile at 60MPH. I no longer drive professionally, but I still look way ahead to this day. It has gotten me out of hot water several times. You can see situations ahead begin to develop to take evasive action well before the rest of the pack.

Ken probably has the answer to much of her problem. But I think that her problem lies in cognitive deficiency - not defect, but a lack. Not a personality defect nor lack of ability nor even due to gender, but maybe situational in cause: never in a situation of becoming aware of what is going on in driving and traffic. She learned as best she could; what one does not cognize, does not exist. I am no auto mechanic, but would agree with Tom and Ray that by virtue of the fact that she took the initiative to call and face the music, she is capable of learning to drive well. She should seek out training (certainly not not by boyfriend even though capable). With guidance, knowledge and practice, I am sure she could become a perfectly good driver - rather than one of the many who are driving the car rather than driving the road.
She owes it to her self-esteem and safety, her relationship, and fellow citizens - even if not reciprocated.

It’s astonishing to me that people actually have to be told to look far ahead when driving. I’ll concede, reluctantly, that a new driver (less than 3 months with a license) may not have encountered an eye-opening traffic situation yet to hammer home the importance of looking ahead, but a driver with years of experience? It’s inconceivable to me that someone could still not have learned this lesson after driving a few years, yet we all see examples, and consequences, of this ignorance every day.

The problem is in how US drivers are taught to drive. I grew up in the UK (which has many issues, but actual national driving standards) and was utterly shocked and disgusted that, upon turning up in MA, I was able to get a driver’s license after a test that lasted about 10 minutes, involved no highway driving, and required almost no higher level reasoning. That is the problem and the reason that I see such horrific examples of bad driving here. This country is otherwise amazing, but we need to fix this complete lack of basic standards (drivers ed is not a solution because it’s not universally mandatory, especially for over 18s, and there is no consistent standard).

I’m sure you were prepared for some culture shock when you relocated to the States, but I bet you never thought the biggest jolt would be from driving !
I can’t deny that driving instruction and testing procedures aren’t uniform in this country, and are pretty bad, but it would be a monumental undertaking to change it now. The attitude of bad driving is so ingrained in millions of Americans that several generations would have to pass before you’d see any significant change. I’m not saying we shouldn’t try; just that it would be one long, uphill battle.