Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!
Zane asks: I read your article earlier about automated cars and between the article itself and the comments section, was wondering how many people were taught young and were better than the Drivers Ed instructors?
Curious, as I got a sense that the government can’t get all the cars off the road (especially in Red states, where I’ll hopefully end up), how to raise the kids I don’t even have yet to be better drives than I was then and most adults will be. I read an article somewhere where a guy got his kid into go kart racing, and wonder if that would be a recommended route to go, and what other advice you could share. Especially plan on teaching them how to drive a manual, as I’ve said before that I plan on getting a Wrangler and keeping it forever, hopefully long enough for them as teenagers to fight over stealing it to so they could go out with their friends with it.
My reply: Well, speaking just for me – and members of my generation, which began driving in the ’80s – almost all of us had a full adult driver’s license at 16 (often on the day we turned 16) and had begun legally driving as 15-year-olds. So on the face of it, we were driving much sooner than almost all kids do today and than all kids legally do.
I think we are almost all of us better drivers, too – and not just because we started sooner. We – most of us – learned to drive using cars that were much more difficult to drive than today’s cars. Many had not just manual transmissions, but manual transmissions without hydraulic clutch assist; threes on the tree – and so on. It took more concentration – and so, ultimately, built up higher skill – to drive even a VW Beetle from the ’70s than any current car a teen is likely to learn to drive in today.
Also, we were encouraged to be more active as drivers; this “defensive driving” stuff – which is really passive driving stuff – was only just coming online and we all snickered at it.
There was an active car culture; many of the boys (me among them) were hot rodders and street racers. Sure, we drove fast – and without doubt sometimes did foolish things, as teenagers will always do. But we were less fearful, more audacious; less beaten into submission to authority than today’s kids – who generally seem to accept it without much question.
I think Kart racing is a top-drawer idea; also motocrossing. Both impart skills that pay huge dividends in real world driving. I would also – if I had a kid of my own – have him (or her) tackle a high-performance driving school after about two years or so of building up the basic skills. Some people think that encourages speed lust and recklessness. I take the opposite view. A high-performance driving course (e.g., Bondurant) teaches the driver to control his car far more effectively than the average mope and that is a huge safety (as opposed to saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafety) advantage.
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