Part of the reason that our blogs have been released so infrequently in the last few months is because I had a significant extra item on my plate: learning how to drive.
I’m sure many readers assumed I could already drive as most Americans learn to drive at 16. I did take driver’s ed, but my instructor was one of the worst people I’ve ever met. He was ill suited to teaching to the point that he made all of my high school friends cry during lessons. We weren’t a big group of crybabies. He was a completely horrible man that made learning to operate dangerous, heavy machinery as difficult as possible. One of those friends actually died in a car crash soon after getting her license, which put me off for nearly two decades. I don’t think either of us had been ready at that age and the bad teacher surely didn’t help.
Given the imminent move to Estrella, driving has finally become a necessity and the overall situation was also stable enough for me to try again. There is one other instance when it would have been very, very useful to have a second driver, obviously, our 2015 road trip. Learning to drive on the road and while moving country just wasn’t possible though given my level of baggage related to it and learning to drive just before in Britain on the wrong side of the road wasn’t either. Fortunately, thanks to some help from NControl Driving School, it finally was possible, and as of the twenty ninth of October, I am licensed to drive.
We used NControl fully, doing their 10 lesson course, but I also practiced extensively with Chris. Chris was amazing, considering he was having to teach his wife to drive, on the wrong side of the road no less, and with no teaching experience. His dad was also a a star, in that he was able to teach Chris how to teach me how to parallel park. He was a driving instructor himself in the UK for years.
In particular, I want to thank Vincent from NControl driving school for being exactly the instructor that I needed. No matter what I did in the car, he was perfectly calm. He explained things well and was willing to repeat things as often as needed. I also just generally liked him, which having spent plenty of time on both the teaching and student sides of education, liking each other helps massively, especially in one on one lessons. Never take one on one lessons with someone you don’t enjoy spending time with if you can avoid it. It will work 100% better if you get along.
This is one thing that was great about NControl. They offer 14 different instructors who all work with the same curriculum and take extensive notes on the results of each lesson that are passed along to any future instructor you may have with them. This meant that from day one, I felt able to pick and choose who I felt most comfortable with. I never felt trapped.
The one takeaway message I got from the whole experience is that I really think the US needs to rethink driver’s education and age. I think 16 is way too young for many people. Maybe some people are 100% ready then, but I know that in my case, I felt it was very much pushed at that time whether I was ready or not. It also meant that because I didn’t finish it at 16, there were few natural points to learn in the future. I would have had to seek out the thing that scared me, which, like most people, I didn’t do until it was an absolute necessity.
In Britain, there is far less expectation that you will drive by some particular age. It is not generally taught in schools there. You sign up for private lessons when you feel ready or need to. I hadn’t even been aware of private driving schools in the US before moving to Arizona. I’m not sure how common they are. The owner of this school said he founded it because Arizona schools don’t teach driving and young people driving unsafely worried him, so it may be m something that is more common here for that reason.
At any rate, whether it’s done in normal schools or privately, I don’t think teenagers should be pushed to drive. It shouldn’t be a given that, at 16, everyone is suddenly ready. Driving a car is essentially operating potentially lethal heavy machinery. Beyond whether an individual feels ready, it’s a very serious thing and I have a feeling most teenagers don’t take it as seriously as they should. Now that I am paying attention to the driving of others, most people don’t drive all that well. They speed. They keep poor distance between each other. Their road position is wrong. The cut people off. They turn wide. They text while driving. The list goes on. I wonder if these poor habits are due in part to learning to drive at the wrong age.
As an adult with an education background, I consider myself to be a life long learner. How many teenagers would describe themselves in the same terms? I would bet few. I have a feeling most kids get their license and feel done. I think it’s more than entirely possible this is where many bad driving habits come from. Your average teen learns well enough to pass a test, but doesn’t feel compelled to improve beyond that due to how invincible most teenagers feel and due to being near the end of the period of compulsory education in their lives.
I’m not sure what the right age is, but I would bet that it’s older than 16. Driving is one of the most potentially lethal things the average person does in a day. Our society should make sure people learning to do it are taking it extremely seriously, even if that means doing it an older, less convenient age.
At any rate, thank you for reading if you made it this far. This is a more personal post than usual, but I do feel strongly about the supreme importance of driving safely. Please do be safe out there on the road.
On a jollier note, here is the video of me getting to surprise my parents. We didn’t tell them that I was learning and I was actually able to get licensed the day they came to visit and surprised them by just driving up at their hotel: