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SWEET 16: A COMMENTARY ON DRIVING

Who's that cruising down the street? No, not in the Jeep or the Mustang. Nope, not in that pickup. Yeah, that's me. On the bike.

You know, it's really not that bad. Of course, being 16 without a car does have its drawbacks, and the entire process of earning a license is a pain in the you-know-what, but it's bearable.

For one thing, I have rock-hard legs from that continuous cycling motion. Also, I do enjoy the sun beating down on my back on a warm summer day. But when it dips below, say, 70, forget it.

Welcome to my world. I'm happy to say that I now have a permit after passing a "sanity test" at the Department of Motor Vehicles. It seems as though they expect you to pass, taking your picture and everything even before you start writing.

The one thing I don't understand at the DMV are the lines. You wait in one line to fill out a form, which allows you to wait in this other line, the pace of which moves well below a residential speed limit, and even after this there are lines to have your photo taken, take the test and pay.

Then what? Driving around parking lots, then the neighborhood and finally on real streets with my "interim" permit, a piece of paper that has my signature on it. Of course, the whole thing is pointless since I won't be able to schedule a road test date until the year 2009. By then I might as well sign up for the male bodybuilding circuit since my calves will be monstrous from years of riding my bike.

If you'll all bear with me and turn to page 12 of your DMV Driver's Manual, you will see a peculiar statement. It reads that in preparation for the road test, "We recommend you have at least 30 hours of practice, with at least 10 hours in moderately heavy traffic, before taking a road test." Now, if you really think about it, that's far.

Suppose that we drive at the relatively standard speed of 60 mph on the interstate system, 30 hours of driving would get us from Buffalo to a little beyond Grand Junction, Colo. It would also take us from Buffalo to Albuquerque, N.M.

If the state is suggesting learning drivers take a road trip across the United States with "a licensed driver 18 or over with a license valid for the type of vehicle you are driving," I'm all for it.

Now, insurance is another matter entirely. I often wonder why teenage males have the highest auto-insurance rates. I mean, it seems as though this is a little prejudicial, don't you think? I guess I just don't understand insurance at all, really. To the best of my knowledge, it works something like this. If you are in an accident that you did not cause, the insurance company might pay for the damage. If, however, you are in an accident that you did cause, well, maybe you're the one giving teenage males a bad name. Other than that, it's all a mystery to me.

A word of warning: If you're on that road trip and you find yourself in Montana, beware of 13-year-olds in the driver seat. They may not be able to see over the wheel, so maybe they're the ones who are raising all of our insurance premiums.

As for me, it looks like I'll be on my bike, at least for the moment. Maybe with a little practice and a lot of luck I'll be able to get my license before the Earth collides with the sun. Maybe I'll see you somewhere near the Continental Divide on your way to 30 hours

Jason Davis is a junior at Williamsville East High School.

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