Learning Helplessness

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

It’s astounding they still allow kids – allow adults – to ride bicycles without training wheels. Probably not for much longer. Keeping them affixed might prevent someone from falling over.

The same principle seems to have been applied already to roads – and drivers, presumably licensed to drive – who are presumed to be incapable of competently driving past a blocked off lane that’s being worked on without running over the cones (or the workers) without the assistance of a Pilot Car.

You have probably found yourself behind one of these already – after having waited for what seems like forever – for one to shepherd other cars through the “zone,” pull off to allow the herd to pass, turn around to face the other way and then glacially shepherd opposing traffic back the other way at a near-crawl  before – finally – leading you and the other cars headed your way back the other way, again.

It has rendered what used to be a minor delay into an often-major one. Just the same as if no one were allowed to walk up a flight of stairs without assistance. You can imagine what the wait might be at the bathroom if the same principle were applied there.

It probably will be, eventually.

In pre-training-wheels-times (this was before the 2000s, roughly) there were just the cones, marking off where not to drive – and a guy standing at each end of the work zone holding a walkie-talkie and a Stop sign. You’d roll up to this and . . . stop. The guy would communicate with his counterpart at the other end of the work zone cone line and – when all was clear – he would rotate the sign and wave you through.

The rest – challenging as it was – was up to you.

Apparently, the challenge was too great.

There are licensed drivers who either cannot or cannot be trusted to not drive in the wrong lane, keep within their lane (even at the crawl speeds typical of work zones) and avoid running into equipment or over the workers. They need a Pilot Car – it is usually a truck – to shepherd them through.

For drivers who don’t, it’s more than just cloyingly insulting – akin to a new law (probably coming) that adults as well as kids must keep the training wheels on their bikes, forever – since there are people who cannot safely balance and some of them might fall down and therefore everyone must be presumed a moron. It is yet another way learned helplessness as a societal-cultural presumption is being institutionalized. It is transforming the populace from one in which people were expected to be competent – and rewarded for it – into one in which competence is, effectively, punished.

By presuming no one is capable of rising to it. And – thereby – assuring more and more won’t rise to it.

This will be the undoing of society. It arguably already is. Expectations fall everywhere. And people lower their own expectations of themselves, accordingly.

Why even bother with this business of licensing drivers if licensed drivers are to be presumed so incompetent that they must be shepherded through a work zone by a Pilot Car (or truck)? We are not – as the saying goes – talking ’bout rocket science here. Two lanes, one in each direction. One is blocked off for paving work or whatever. There are bright orange cones clearly indicating which lane is blocked off.

Is it really that challenging to drive in the other lane? The one not being worked on? Without running over the cones – or the workers? And if it is that challenging, maybe the drivers who need a Pilot Car (or truck) to shepherd them through the work zone need a Pilot Car (or truck) to shepherd them everywhere.

Does it not  . . . follow?

Indeed, it does.

It is already applied. Not – yet – by having a Pilot Car (or truck) to lead the learned helpless everywhere. Logistically, this is difficult if not entirely infeasible. But the principle of the thing has been quietly implemented electronically in almost all new cars, which have what amounts to a “Pilot Car” embedded within them, in the form of what is styled Advanced Driver Assistance Technology. Such as Lane Keep Assist, which corrects the line of the wandering-attention “driver,” who is (QED) not worthy of the title. The electronically embedded Pilot Car also brakes for the “driver” who fails to when necessary and even parks the car for him, since it is now presumed that licensed drivers require assistance to park a car.

And more and more of them do – precisely because of all this “assistance.”

It is a negative feedback loop, resulting not just in more but worse. Ultimately to the point of reductio ad absurdum – i.e., the ridiculous. Like having to wait for a Pilot Car/Truck to shepherd licensed drivers through a work zone.

It is surely only a question of months before Training Wheel Laws are enacted.

. . .

If you like what you’ve found here please consider supporting EPautos. 

We depend on you to keep the wheels turning! 

Our donate button is here.

 If you prefer not to use PayPal, our mailing address is:

721 Hummingbird Lane SE
Copper Hill, VA 24079

PS: Get an EPautos magnet or sticker or coaster in return for a $20 or more one-time donation or a $10 or more monthly recurring donation. (Please be sure to tell us you want a magnet or sticker or coaster – and also, provide an address, so we know where to mail the thing!)

My eBook about car buying (new and used) is also available for your favorite price – free! Click here.  If that fails, email me at EPeters952@yahoo.com and I will send you a copy directly!

Share Button


  1. Is this an east coast thing? I have never encountered this in Indiana. They put up a bunch of orange barrels and signs, many if them warning of excessive fines for speeding in a construction zone, and let you go. Sometimes they park a cop near the zone to warn you that you’re being watched and to collect that $2500 fine if you speed. Maybe we don’t have pilot cars because then it wouldn’t be possible to get the fines.

  2. It depends….

    Here in KY. -especially on the rural roads, it can be very ambiguous as to where you’re supposed to go after the flagger waves you past. I’ve been in situations where it appeared that the construction had ended and it made ya wonder if you’re not supposed to return to the proper lane, so as not to be driving in the oncoming lane where someone might be coming the other way over the crest of the next hill or around that blind curve… and then with the next vista, there’s another construction vehicle in the ‘proper lane’- or some fresh tar which you don’t know if it’s dry or not.

    But sheesh, I mean, some places do it better, with cones and portable lighted arrow signs and such, and don’t need a pilot car. And even here, when the state actually does the work (or has it done on their behalf) they usually make it pretty foolproof- not even requiring flaggers- they just set up portable traffic lights….but some of the county/town entities can be pretty haphazard and vague.

    Speaking of this reminds me: A year or so ago I had to go a couple of counties over, and in one county they were repairing a bridge on a major 2-lane highway. They had only one lane open on the bridge, which had those cement barriers on both sides of the lane. The lane was SO narrow… There was a cement mixer in front of me, and there was barely an inch between his tires and the cement wall barriers on either side….I don’t know how that guy made it through, but he was GOOD!

  3. I’m fairly rural and had to deal with a pilot car recently. It made sense once I saw what they were doing, which was utilizing both lanes of travel for their equipment after the pilot had passed with each herd of cars. They knew that they had a little time in between “herds” to get their bobcats in the travel lane and do what they needed to do.

    I have also seen needless pilot cars as well. Not defending the blanket use of them.

    I’ve seen a couple of portable traffic signals being used these days. Who needs the flagman and a walkie talkie anymore? And I wouldn’t be surprised if pilot vehicles are turned into autonomous electric concoctions that work in conjunction with the portable traffic signals.

  4. I remember one of the PennDOT contractors in central PA hired college-aged girls to be stop/slow sign operators. Most of them wore tank tops, shorts and PPE vests. Made waiting a lot less annoying.

  5. If the pilot car travels a mile through the construction zone, it’ll make for a better traffic control at the construction zone.

    The oil industry out west where the fields are have equipment that is larger than most. The size of the machine takes up 1 1/2 lanes for a good 100 feet, you aren’t going to pass, you follow.

    If you come upon a piece of oil equipment on the highway, you’ll pull over all the way to the shoulder on your right and slow down to 25 mph. There is no choice, the road is impassable until the vehicles in the tow are on their way away from normal road conditions and traffic.

    The full moon was on February 5th at 1:28 PM on the Eastern Seaboard, the earthquake occurred some 12 plus hours later at 4:18 AM.

    All of a sudden, everything is wrong, Turkey got reset.

    Mother Nature at work, blame it on the moon.

  6. Not only that. As if they don’t have featherbedding down to an art in GovCo construction projects, no we can add another to the payroll (at YOUR expense) and let them drive 10mph all day burning deadly fossil fuel all day long.

    It’s just so “in YOUR FACE, Prole!” I just want to scream.

  7. I’ve seen (2) separate incidents where perhaps the Tesla automatic inferred driver system (AIDS) has caused an accident recently. One was at a ferry terminal (not in reference to the alphabet people) where a tesla almost launched into the sea waiting for the SS-LGBTQIA ferry to arrive. Another was tragedy down in Ca on Highway 1 where a tesla drove off a cliff and somehow all survived but are in the hospital in critical condition. Of course, the husband has been arrested on suspicion of attempting to kill his family. After all, a Tesla with AIDS would never commit such a crime especially near San Francisco CA, and of course, all male-husbands want to kill their wives and families especially near the toxic male- super-bowl week.
    Just watch a few crime dramas on TV and you too can get a job as a AGW crime historian in CA.

  8. I notice that in tight parking lots (with compact spaces), young drivers tend to back in so they can have the assistance of the camera. They don’t seem to have the spatial awareness to pull in nose first (probably due in part to thick A pillars, and high hood height due to pedestrian impact standards).

    • Mistier,
      With extensive experience using mirrors on pick ups, it’s much easier to back into a tight space. As you said, with the reduced visibility, it behooves one to back in, so one can pull out with somewhat better visibility. Not to say that what you’re seeing isn’t the camera use of course.

    • I’ve been backing into parking spaces all of my life…. Having gotten my license when I lived in NY, I always liked the idea of havinmg easy egress if things get tight by the time I’m ready to leave- like if a delivery truck is partially blocking the way, or if people park in the aisles, as used to be very common in LIRR parking lots. I do it less often now that I live in the sticks…but old habits die hard, and I still like the idea.

      It’s also a good idea, as it prevents people from backing into each other if two people in adjacent rows are backing out at the same time. Also makes it easier to see pedestrians, or drivers who may be flying through at a high speed; and just makes life easier in lots where the aisles may be narrow (Even here in the sticks, with all the duallies and all, it seems most lots are striped for small vehicles. At the local Rural King, it’s ridiculous- a store where half the customers come in duallies and big trucks, and it seems the parking lot was designed for Fiat 500’s- and it’s even worse, because half of the vehicles don’t fit in the spaces, they are often poking out halfway into the narrow aisles…and ironically, you can’t back into the spaces there because they are angled spaces. When I go there I always park a little further away for easy ingress and egress- a few extra steps take less time and effort than carefully maneuvering where you have to watch pedestrians, other vehicles, and the ass ends of farm trucks sticking halfway out in the aisle.

      I saw a guy there once who had a pick-up and a trailer, and had parked in a ‘good spot’ near the entrance (He drove through, so the truck was in one spot and the trailer was in the spot behind him). When I was leaving his truck was still there, but people had parked all around him. There was no way that guy was getting out of that spot with the trailer until at least one other vehicle next to him were to vacate a space.

  9. Wait a minute, I just took a good look at the little picture halfway down the article. Is that a person cleaning their bottom with a “squeegee”? Are we down to prosthetic butt cleansing apparatus now? Strike that,honestly, I don’t want to know, lol!

  10. I don’t believe I’ve ever had the pleasure of following this so-called ‘pilot car’. And I’m certainly grateful for that and hope the trend doesn’t catch on over here. ‘Stop the spread’ and all, you know.

    • ‘hope the trend doesn’t catch on over here’ — BaDnOn

      Ah, but it has. Pilot cars were in use for months during 2021 on AZ-260 atop the Mogollon Rim, for some excavation and guardrail installation. Followed them half a dozen times at least. 🙁

  11. The point being driven is that you simply cannot function. much less survive, without bureaucratic guidance. Ensuring we always have an ever increasing supply of them. In spite of the fact most bureaucrats are less competent than you are, or they wouldn’t be bureaucrats.
    Can you imagine how utterly boring life would be if all risks were eliminated?

  12. Like others have said, I can see having a pilot car when there’s large equipment all over the place. But for most road jobs, that’s simply not necessary (in my limited experience).

    Guessing it’s driven by insurance cartels vis a vis government fiat more so than construction companies. From the construction company standpoint, that’s another person to hire / vehicle to pay for that’s not really doing anything productive.

  13. With the direction the U.S. government is heading, what are the odds that one day they’ll try to BAN ordinary humans from driving an automobile and decree that the only vehicles that will be “allowed” on the roads are not just EVs (“Because ‘Climate change!'”) but EVs driven by a computer or AI, claiming it’s for “Saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafety”. What could go wrong with that idea should it become reality? If a certain old episode of Star Trek from the late 1960s is any indication, a lot could go wrong.

    • ‘the only vehicles that will be “allowed” on the roads are … EVs driven by a computer or AI, claiming it’s for “Saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafety”.’ — John B

      That’s exactly what EeeVee Mary of GM said last week: ‘zero crashes, zero emissions, zero congestion.’ Incensed, I screamed degrading profanities at her image on the computer screen.

      Today, come to find out she’s been using that dystopian line since October 2017: [Faceborg link, 0:40]


      Probably when Clowngress bailed out GM in 2009, Mary was given The Talk:

      ‘You’re our bitch now. So you put on this studded leather dog collar, and stick this pony tail up your butt, and crawl across the floor barking when we say so.’

      • Jim,

        “Zero crashes, zero emissions, zero congestion”? Given what we KNOW the globalist technocrats are pushing, it appears the only way to achieve that would be to FORCE ordinary people out of regular vehicles. But of course, THEY would continue driving vehicles or flying around in private jets because they’re “Special” or something.

        This push for NET ZERO also has a hidden meaning, that being FEWER HUMANS.

  14. Eric, this pliot car thing likely started from large construction zones in the western US. We went through several (where they were literally moving mountains), and the zone is basically dirt, with no lines, no asphalt, no guard rails with cliffs feet away, and as gtc said, mega earth moving equipment moving everywhere. When we went through our first one, it was miles of this, and it shocked me that they even allowed passenger cars through at all. But the west is different, and the only way around is hours out of your way, so I guess they have to let ya through somehow.
    I’m assuming this ‘pilot’ car thing now has caught on to bureaucrats and construction companies in the east, and more likely their insurance companies.
    On a side note, it pleased me to be in my small rural western town the past few weeks, and see that they don’t spray and drop salt all over the roads when it snows. Even leaving snow-ice ON the roads. Your are expected to know how to drive in it, like it used to be………..

  15. Remember the pre Pilot Car/Walkie-Talkie days when all that was used was a flag that was handed off at each end by the last car in line? Pepperidge Farms remembers.

    It’s a wonder we all survived.


  16. This can’t be a thing. You must be joking, right? I’ve never seen such idiocy, thank gawd, and there’s a ton of road construction around here.

  17. The few times I have had to wait for a “pilot car” through a construction zone, is when the area is active with big equipment running all over and is likely to run you down flat if you don’t know where they are, or vice-versa.
    But having the same crap inside the newer cars, and this could go back as far as 1974 with seatbelt sensors that locked out the ignition if not buckled, has become insanely frustrating in my shop. There are cars that won’t let the engine run long enough to get out of then driver seat and go to the tailpipe to check exhaust pressure. Digital shifter crap that throws the transmission into park AND cinches up the parking brake when I crack open the door reversing into a position where I need to watch the exact placement of the back tires. Gauges that flash a shitload of warning and error messages, instead of showing me an effing odometer reading so I can get on with the car servicing task at hand. Fords are by far the worst of all this crap, and wont even cut off or reset stupid crap like “hood is open” message, which I effing know, because I have the hood open to do service and repairs. Ford trucks and suv’s with auto-parking functions are beyond lame to the point that Ford drivers are crippled even worse than others.
    You, Eric, have already experienced the “lane assist” that forces you to hit whatever you are trying to avoid in the road, should you cross a center line without signalling first. 3 Years ago I had a customer telling me about VA TECH doing development of EXTERNAL BUMPER MOUNTED AIRBAGS, to protect dumbass drunk college kids that stumble or run out into downtown traffic.
    Blacksburg, itself, is a viper’s nest of Alarmist Safety-Nazi-Libtards anyway, but it is those type of people that generate all this insane non-driving crap now in every single automobile being manufactured today.
    My pet peeve, aside from all of the above, is the “cruise control” that disengages and won’t even operate if there is a single car with 100 yards of you. This is combined with the auto-braking feature that has almost gotten me, & Eric, killed because we were unaware it was activated, or even present, before test-driving.
    When I was 18, I contended that every car & suv driver should also have to be certified and competent to operate a motorcycle, before getting any other operators license of any kind, and stay current, or lose it. Now, that is certainly a little excessive and draconian on my part, but I felt everyone needed to be at risk of injury or death on a regular basis, so they would effing drive like their own lives depended on their skills, not their “Saaaaftey Features”. Well, so much for my teenage fantasies, because now we have roads full off non-driving a-holes who just don’t give a flying fuck who they run down as long as they get where they want to go “first”. Personally I’d like a feature that just wraps them around the nearest tree or traffic light pole, putting an end to their stupidity. I have occasionally suggested that instead of a breathalizer-interlock, convicted drunk drivers have their driver seat moved out onto the front bumper. Better yet, tie them to the front bumper, put the car in drive with no driver at all, and send it out into traffic, problem solved! I know, I have a pretty harsh view of Safety-Nazis and the non-drivers they have created, to say the least, lol!

    • Preach it, brother!

      I have no objection to a Pilot Car in extreme circumstances, such as you and Chris describe. But – as you know – this Pilot Car thing has become routine (at least here in VA) and so we find ourselves waiting to be “piloted” through a 100 yard stretch of road because a pothole crew is working the other side.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here