Category Archives: driving

Key Learnings: Drivers’ Education

First: If you stopped by to read about bicycles or routes, just skip this post. Second: A new route is coming tonight, promise.


Those of you who know me know that I don’t drive. My license expired about 12 years ago while I was living in New York City. I just forgot to renew it, and it was too much trouble to get another and I rode my bike everywhere anyway (with the exception of client meetings, when I’d take a cab). Now that we live out in the woods, my girlfriend felt that it was time for me to get my license. I resisted initially; in fact, I managed 4 months without one—during the winter, no less! However, she’s going to be traveling to Los Angeles more and more, forcing me to get a license just in case, for example, I need to take the dogs to the vet while she’s away. I got my learner’s permit on the last day I was in NYC, but New York state requires an additional 5-hour licensing course.

So it was that at 6 am this morning, I got up to go to town and take the course. My girlfriend dropped me off and I entered a room half filled with pimply adolescents and half former alcoholics who had lost their licenses and were forced to take the course. There was no test at the end, but we were required to take at least one page of notes for each unit and turn them in to Mr N, our teacher, to prove we were listening. We were allowed to retain our notes, so that we could bring home key learnings to our friends and family.

Below, you will find scans of my notes and a few key learnings I transcribed, arranged by unit. I thought I would share, because some of these insights are critical to driving success. As a scientist, I am somewhat of a literalist, so I wrote down what Mr N said almost word-for-word.

Unit 1: Getting Started Behind the Wheel

Key Learnings

  • An accident cannot happen unless two objects attempt to occupy the same space at the same time
  • Wipers on = lights on (can be remembered with the acronym W.O.L.O.)
  • Make sure your eyes are active and curious at all times
  • Road markings and signs – not there for decoration!
  • Slow down on hills, especially if you are in a heavy car
  • Reject unimportant information

Unit 1

Unit 2: Handling Intersections

Key Learnings

  • Don’t be a cowboy. If you have a cowboy mentality, become a NASCAR driver (you can tailgate, weave in and out, and go buck wild). If you are not a NASCAR driver, don’t go buck wild
  • Three quarters of all collisions take place at intersections. Most are not fatal, but some are.
  • In uncontrolled intersections, women might be pushing carriages
  • Don’t get lulled into a sense of safety: watch out for dogs, children, sleepy people
  • Motorcyclists can lack experience and skill
  • Use a waving motion to signal you will yield at intersection—left-right or up-and-down, it doesn’t matter

Unit 2

Unit 3: The Physics of Driving and the Importance of Seat Belts

Key Learnings

  • You must learn physics to prevent accidents
  • Newton invented inertia, which governs how rockets get into space
  • If ketchup in bottle is stuck, people usually hit it to release ketchup onto burger. Imagine the bottle of ketchup is the car, and the ketchup is the people in the car. People can turn into ketchup if they are not buckled in. Especially dogs, cameras, and children
  • Don’t let dogs hang their heads out the window. If you stop fast, the dog will smash into door post and die. It’s not worth it! Looks cool, but crazy!
  • If you throw a brick at a blackboard, will damage. If you glue a mattress to the blackboard and throw brick – no damage!
  • It’s not better to be thrown clear of car in an accident. If you have been thrown clear of a car, don’t tell other people that you survived, it sends the wrong message
  • No seat in britches if thrown clear – just a bloody streak on ground
  • You can get run over by your own car if thrown clear
  • Fires/explosions are rare, so you can wear your seatbelt without fear of being trapped in a burning/exploding car
  • If the car is on fire, you are unlikely to be conscious, therefore it is nothing to worry about
  • Back seat passenger = human projectile

Unit 3

Unit 4: Expressway Driving

Key Learnings

  • The highways of tomorrow will use technology to enhance the driving experience
  • Sense hazards with your eyes, then take foot of gas, then place foot on brake to slow car
  • No matter how athletic you are, it takes 300 feet to stop from highway speeds
  • Driving in the fast lane can make you feel alive
  • Don’t slam on brakes or give middle finger to tailgaters
  • If person behind you has “ants in pants” don’t feel peer pressure. Can be hairy.

Unit 4

Unit 5: Impaired Driving

Key Learnings

  • Yelling and carrying on can lead to accidents
  • Alcohol may cause you to see numerous center lines on highway. Cars might also appear to be on both sides of the roadway at the same time
  • Many people on alcohol become silly or even rude
  • 5 servings = body parts seem not to work together
  • A cold shower is refreshing, but it will not make you sober

Unit 5

Remarkably, I passed despite the notes. Back to bicycles shortly!