When I was taught how to drive my step-dad made sure I knew how to be a defensive driver as much as a law abiding driver. He put me through the ringer during my driving lessons with him, but it made me stronger as well as proud of the extra gray hairs I caused him to grow in those days. I’ll never forget him teaching me to drive a stick shift when I barely had a grasp on driving an automatic. He threw me into the situation knowing full immersion early on would be the only way I would conquer it. He told my mother, “no daughter of mine will ever find herself stuck somewhere because some boy can’t drive her home and she doesn’t know how to drive his car.” It was one of many valuable lessons he taught me.
Today many of the gals, and even some of the guys, that surround me can’t drive a manual transmission vehicle. I on the other hand could do it backwards and blindfolded (one of which was definitely a part of my driver training boot camp he put me through, but I’ll let you decide which of the two it was) if I had to as I’ve been doing it since the age of fifteen. That knowledge has come in valuable more than a few times and he was right because I’ve never gotten stuck somewhere because I couldn’t drive another car if I needed to. The knowledge of how to be a responsible, defensive driver has come in handy as well.
Living in and commuting through a tourist destination almost every day has it’s own challenges. While living on the coast I had to watch out for retirees that couldn’t see over their steering wheel. Now I have to be aware of minivans full of distracting family members who are stealing the attention of the driver. On a daily basis you’ll see a packed car, minivan or SUV cut across four lanes of highway traffic to ensure they don’t miss their exit for a theme park. You’ll also find them slowing down to a crawl under each and every sign they see to make sure they know where they are going. I’d like to say it is better on the side roads, but it’s even worse with people jockeying around in traffic unsure of what lane they should be in.
Driving in Central Florida around the tourist destinations can be an all contact sport if you’re not prepared to drive defensively. For about a six month period of time my doctor had prescribed something he felt could reduce the pain caused by my Fibromyalgia. Decrease the pain it did, but it also increased my paranoia about others on the road. It got to the point that I couldn’t be a passenger in anyone else’s car. I had to be driving and in control of the situation at all times. It wasn’t that I didn’t trust my loved ones and their driving abilities, but more that I didn’t trust those around us.
Unfortunately, over the years I’ve been in multiple accidents where they passenger side was hit and I was the one sitting in that spot. It took me a while to get past the point of being a side seat driver after that, but the medication they gave me made me the worst passenger in the world. It didn’t take long, especially when combined with all the other mind altering side affects, for me to decide that I rather face the pain then feel like I was losing my mind. I can’t afford to be a paranoid passenger in a tourism destination where erratic driving is a part of every day commutes.
I don’t know if I’m ready to take on the cabs in New York City or a highway in Europe just yet, but I will say I appreciate everything my step-dad did to prepare me for being a defensive driver. His lessons are put to use each an every day as I make my way to or from work, as well as just around town running errands where Central Florida roads can look like something out of a game of Grand Theft Auto at times. Thank you for showing me that the most responsible driver is the one that is aware of not only herself, but everyone around her. It has kept me safe and sound for fifteen years and hopefully many more to come.