Learning To Driveagain

Good citizen that I am, I was recently taking a shortcut from the recycling center to the public library and had my first automobile accident where I was the one at fault. I had stopped. I had looked left-right-left (twice). And I pulled out right in front of a car that I had not seen. No one was hurt (except my fender and her front panel). My charge was "failure to yield the right of way" and I earned four "negative points."

What did this mean? Well, when I include some speeding ticket points from last year, it meant too many negative points for my comfort. So, I voluntarily signed up for the local Driver Improvement Program. The cost was $60.00 and it involved two four-hour evening classes. Successful completion gave me five "positive points." The Charlottesville area has seven different DMV-approved driver improvement businesses.

I didn't quite know what to expect with this class. I have always felt good about my driving skills and instincts. I wondered if I would get much more from it than the five points. Amazingly, I learned a lot. First of all, most attendees are not voluntary. Most attendees are close to having their license suspended or revoked-and this involves negative points in the double digits. More than a few students were sweating meeting deadlines (for the completion of this class) ordered by the local traffic judge.

My driver's license is thirty-one years old and my last driver's education was in the seventies. I am a relatively new user of power steering and power brakes and airbags. From this class, I learned other things that have changed and even that some of the methods I had been taught are now obsolete. For example, airbags can be lethal if you fail to use your seatbelt or are too close to the steering wheel. Placing your hands in the 10 and 2 position have changed to the 8 and 4 position (all because of airbags). Even the recommended distance we travel behind cars has been adjusted. Interestingly to me, we spent more time discussing road rage than we did drunk driving.

My oldest child turns the magical age of 15 in March. For years we have been planning to hit the road and head west when she gets her learner's. Just the two of us-with a tent thrown in the back. No destination. Just a map. Just the thing a parent and child should do sometimes.

It would have been a disservice to my daughter to have not been aware of the new safety information. The Driver Improvement Program was mostly about effectively communicating with the drivers of other 2000 - 4000 pounds of metal we are sharing the roads with-a good thing to pause and think about. It was nice timing to have had the opportunity to explore these driving issues before we set off on our adventure. I am real sorry about the accident but I am glad I was led to this program. I would encourage all parents with teens entering the driving years to consider ways to be informed with the latest information. You can't hide from the numbers-motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for persons between the ages of 15 and 20.

Effective July 1, 2001, the 2001 General Assembly legislated the following requirements and restrictions:

Learner's Permit:

  • Age of applicant: Your teen must be at least 15 years and 6 months of age before he or she can apply for a learner's permit.
  • Holding period: Before applying for a driver's license, your child must hold his or her learner's permit for nine months or until age 18, whichever comes first.
  • Driving experience: Before your teen can qualify for a driver's license, you must certify that your child has 40 hours of behind-the-wheel driving experience, at least 10 hours of which were after sunset.
  • Passenger limits: While driving with a learner's permit, your teen may not carry more than one passenger under age 18. (This does not apply to family members.)
  • Curfew: While driving with a learner's permit, your teen may not operate a motor vehicle between the hours of midnight and 4 a.m.

Driver's License:

  • Age of applicant: Your child must be at least 16 years, 3 months of age before he or she can apply for a driver's license.
  • Passenger limits: 16-year-old licensed drivers may not carry more than one passenger under age 18. 17-year-old licensed drivers may not carry more than three passengers under age 18. Passenger limits do not apply to family members.
  • Curfew: If your teen is under age 18, he or she may not operate a motor vehicle between the hours of midnight and 4 a.m. except: when traveling to and from work, in an emergency, when traveling to and from a school sponsored activity, or when accompanied by a parent or an adult acting in place of the parent.

Copyright ©2002-Mary Wilson-All Rights Reserved

 

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