QOTD: How Do You Take Out the Trash?

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago
qotd how do you take out the trash

Cruising into Newport in Maserati's Quattroporte (review to follow), I watched a Mitsubishi Starion drive straight through a stop sign and slam into the side of a BMW 3-Series sedan. Despite my reputation for unbridled, acid-tongued cynicism, my first thought was the same as yours: is everybody all right? After ascertaining that the meat wagon wasn't a life or death issue (at least as far as I could tell), and that plenty of gawkers had stopped to gawk, my second thought was less charitable: if I pull over as a witness, how long would it cut into my 24-hour test drive? And then I saw the Starion driver get out of his relatively unmolested POS and check his front fender for damage and I felt an enormous urge to stop, jump out and clock the guy. So my question is this: how do we get these stupid bastards off our roads? Better (i.e. not speed-obsessed) enforcement? Higher driving standards? How about any driving standards? I'm not saying anything about the Starion driver's ethnicity, but why are some states giving driving licenses to illegal immigrants who can't speak English? What the Hell kind of driving test doesn't require enough English literacy to read a warning sign? Your thoughts?

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  • Glenn Glenn on Aug 01, 2006

    salokj, Perhaps it is cultural that the French are poor drivers and don't care about others on the roadway. The Italians also have a terrible reputation for bad driving - at least in the eyes of other drivers who have the misfortune of driving in Italy along side them. So does this mean our American driving culture and (lack of) standards is getting less nordic / north European, and more latin / south European? I dunno. Could be. All I know is the driving standards suck here and are getting worse. Having lived in the UK, I can tell you that driving is better there. Whether this can be attributed to the better education or not is only a guess on my part, but it seems interesting that Germans also have a far better standard of education for driving, and their driving is far better than Americans. Besides, when I lived in the UK, I had to take the British driving licence test as if I had never driven at all. 56% of testees fail the first time, 70% fail subsequent retests. (I passed first time, thank you very much). You as much as admitted that you were able to get a CT drivers license and just change it for a French license since the French didn't seem to have such an agreement to just swap licenses with NY. So you took the easy way out, whereas there was no such option for me when I lived in the UK (though I was given to understand that Australians, New Zealanders and Canadians could just swap for a British driving licence). Perhaps there is less stringient drivers education and more relaxed licensing requirements in France than meet the eye. As you said, if you drive a certain class of vehicle you need not even bother getting a real license and passing the proper test. Doesn't France have those tiny low speed city cars in which anyone can drive without a proper license? I suppose that more tickets and so forth may not make any difference in driving standards in the United States. You may have a point, there. We may never find out because the likelihood of this happening is probably nil. When I was underwrting for a specialty insurance company, I noted that the only police forces in the United States that seemed to be writing tickets for tailgating or following too close were in southern New England (not New York, certainly). Certainly tailgating is pandemic, as is red light running, not stopping at stop signs, excessive speeding, staying in the left lane instead of having lane discipline, talking on cell phones and weaving, etc. I also had access to Federal and international driving statistics and driving standards are poor in the US compared to similar stats in the UK. Very poor. The UK driving standards are improving, while ours are deteriorating. The UK is a far safer place to drive than the US, overall, despite smaller roads and far more traffic (the UK being not much larger than Michigan, yet having 8 times the population). I don't have all the answers, salojk, I'm not the answer man / genius. Anyone want to try their hand at a practice British driving exam online? You may not do as well as a Brit because of signage and cultural differences, but you might want to "have a go" and see how you do. In no way is this test online as difficult as the real deal, I might add. Go to http://drivtest.carltononline.com/test.htm and click on "practice test". What have you got to lose except a little pride?

  • Chalmers Chalmers on Aug 01, 2006

    Glenn, I don't know much about UK licencing, but here in France you've got a ton of stuff to do, including a minimum of 20 hours of professional instruction, class room instruction, driving experience with parents/guardians. There's a written test where you must answer at least 35/40 questions correctly. The road test is a minimum of 25 minutes with technical questions and at least 2 "manouevers" to do - K-turn, parallel parking, etc. I don't see how me figuring out the loopholes to the French system means that I am more or less qualified to judge the standard of driving here. When I knew that I had to get a license here, I looked into the process- it's nothing like the process for getting one in NYS. I didn't take the "easy" way out as much as I took the intelligent way out (economically and time-related). The UK accepts exchanges from the entire EC plus a handful of other countries. I am also on "probation" for 3 full years and am considered like a new driver, since they won't accept my 11 years of driving in NYS. I have only 6 points (out of the normal 12), which is now only 5 points (stupid speed cameras), to play with. And yes, those tiny low speed cars that you speak of - those were the cars that I was discussing in my previous post. It may very well be more difficult to get a license in Germany or Britain, I've never lived there or discussed with them the difficulties that they have had - yes, I think that the US standards are low (I have friends from Jersey that never had to leave a parking lot to get theirs), but I know for a fact that the level is higher here in France (then in the US) - there are certain aspects where the French are better drivers (as I said, lane discipline), but as a whole, the driving experience is not leaps-and-bounds ahead of that in the US.

  • Glenn Glenn on Aug 01, 2006

    Technology coupled with political pressure from media stories (once the media start to "notice" the god-awful carnage on roads despite modern cars filled with safety equipment) may solve the problem of poor drivers. Currently, some cars have cruise control which will not "allow" you to tailgate. I just read something on the web about a system under development where there is an electronic "eye" which looks for speed limit signs and can slow the car down to those limits for the driver. The Prius has a system in some countries where you can have the car parallel park for you (the driver only operating the brakes, not the steering). There are GPS nav systems in cars. So, how long before we simply get into a "car", speak the destination or put it into a keyboard, push "power" and sit back while the car drives with perfect road manners, no risk-taking, no possible collitions (barring a catastrophic power outage everywhere at the same time and sudden failure of all satellites at the same time). Being a car guy, I rue the day it ever happens. For one, all collector cars would be banned from the roadway (they'd have to be).

  • Geozinger Geozinger on Aug 01, 2006

    I have a 16 year old daughter that I'm teaching how to drive. It's scary as hell to expose your child to the kind of potential carnage that exists out there. Sometimes I just want to sell all three cars and ride the bus...