It's high summer, the season when we Americans flock to the road like so many four-wheeled lemmings.
It's a dangerous time to be driving. And no, this is not due to the terrific traffic; it's because of a menace that appears on our roads about now, a hazard that shoots a bolt of fear through the carburetors of motorists everywhere.
Yes, it's the "student driver" season.
There are some very good reasons to give a wide berth to those vehicles marked "Driver Education," the main one being the experiences of its driver.
Kids these days grow up glued to video games. Because of this, they believe that if they die all they have to do is hit the "reset" button and they will come back to life.
Another problem with spending all that time staring at video games is that you may begin to imagine that you really do possess superhuman powers.
Say a gamer is about to have a head-on with a large and dangerous object, such as truck loaded with dynamite. The gamer/ student driver may believe he can jump this obstacle simply by hitting the "X" and the "Y" buttons at the same time.
Plus, I can imagine a chronic video gamer as he takes his first drive. "Whoa!" he might exclaim, "Killer graphics!"
This is very different than the driver education that was available during my youth.
For one thing, driver education began at a very early age. A person was considered a "late bloomer" if he wasn't driving a tractor by the time he was ten. And even though this tractor may have been small -- such as a "B" John Deere -- driving it was nonetheless highly educational.
For instance, a boy might be dragging a field at the wheel of his puny "B." He may begin to daydream, perhaps about the glorious day when he finally gets to drive the "A."
Due to his inattention he makes a headland turn that is much too wide and takes out several rods of fence. The boy thus learns an indelible lesson as he spends the next several hours untangling the drag and repairing the fence.
A person can get a so-called "learner's permit" when he or she is 14. What a joke! Most of us farm kids were hardened road warriors by the age of 12.
It's not like our parents took any huge risks with us, though. I learned to drive in our '53 Chevy, which was our "field car" that delivered seed corn and supplies to the field. That old beater was WAY safer than any of today's cars.
For example, the old Chevy had none of that namby-pamby padding on its dash as do modern cars. The 53's dashboard was solid steel, which meant that it hurt mightily should you thunk it with your head. This tended to teach a person to drive at sane speeds across rough fields.
Today's kids demand cars that have built-in digital jukeboxes, satellite radios and espresso machines. The '53 had a radio, but it never did work. When this was pointed out to my parents I was told that fixing it would cost money and:
- Money doesn't grow on trees.
- Do I look like I'm made of money?
- If you want music, feel free to sing.