Friday, April 27, 2012

Panoramic Rear View Mirror

I was out and about doing some errands last week when I spotted a peculiar thing in the car stopped ahead of me. Two teenage girls, one seated in the driver's seat and one in the passenger's seat were both gazing into a rear view mirror that stretched the length of the entire windshield. I had never seen a rear view mirror like that before so I was kind of intrigued. I figured there had to be a logical and safety-related reason to have such a mirror, even though the two girls were using it at that moment to simply check their hair, makeup, etc.

Shortly after that, I went along my way and ended up behind yet another set of teenagers with an identical rear view mirror. I had honestly never seen one of these before, so I was shocked to see two within only a few blocks of each other. I started wondering if this is some trend that I have been oblivious to, so I decided to snap a photo with my phone. The quality is obviously lacking, but you get the idea of what the mirror looks like, I hope.

According to Internet sites selling these mirrors, they supposedly improve driver safety and visibility by eliminating blind spots and giving the driver visibility of all-lanes. That sounds great, right? Not having a blind spot and being able to see much more around you would be great. But, I wonder at what price you get this for? Does the added space that mirror takes up in the windshield block your visibility in front of you? Does the mirror serve as more of a distraction than a help considering that you can look at yourself without having to adjust the mirror? (It obviously seemed to be quite a distraction to the two teenage girls I saw).

Although I've come across many positive reviews, I think I might have to give the mirror a try before making my own judgment about it. Have any of you tried this type of mirror out? What are your thoughts about it?

Friday, April 20, 2012

Learning to Drive In America: An Immigrant's Story

Every now and again it's good for me to crawl out from underneath the rock that I call my comfort zone and get to know people from other places. Not everyone learns to drive at 15 or 16. Today Julio C. tells us his story and challenges with learning to drive in the United States. Guest post by: Jeff Denenholz.

For Julio growing up in Central America, earning a college degree and starting a family prohibited him from owning a car and learning to drive until moving to Redmond, WA last November.  He realized immediately important differences between life in Latin America versus here.  “We never had a car for multiple reasons, so we had no license document at all.”

Not having a car has presented several challenges for Julio, mainly the lack of a driver’s license.  He quickly discovered what most of us already take for granted.  “We found that the driver’s license is usually the identification document for U.S. citizens, so it’s a must to have, even if you don’t plan to get a car immediately.”  

Thanks to a great job offer here, Julio is finally able to own a car and learn to drive. He says many friends and co-workers were surprised to learn this was his first time on the roads.  “Well, most people I talked with were quite impressed when I said that I had never had a car or driven before, at all. It seems like in the U.S. everybody gets a license and a car around 18 years old, or maybe before, but where I come from having a car while being so young can be quite a luxury that few parents are able to afford. Over there you usually get a car after getting your own job and working hard for a while. I was almost ready to get my car back there when we decided to move to another country.”

Julio was most concerned about learning to change lanes in the beginning.  “I was very afraid of making a mistake and crashing into another car by changing lanes. Also, parallel parking presented quite a difficult skill set to master.”

Carol Howie, professional driving instructor, tells me that many of her students like Julio never learned to drive due to lack of time or money.  For Julio, it was mainly credit card debt.  Carol doesn’t think there is a great difference between adults who were born here and those learning to drive after moving here from another country.  “They each are highly motivated for a job, for their family or to just get on with their life. We do have to deal with language differences sometimes, however. Then we draw lots of pictures at the side of the road.”

Julio agrees with Carol’s philosophy that the best way is to start with very simple tasks “baby steps” and build confidence along with the skills.  “Carol, a very patient lady, didn´t hesitate on giving me plenty of opportunities to practice and helped me go baby steps from the simplest things to know on the road to more challenging stuff like entering a highway.”

Monday, April 9, 2012

Sign Stealing: From Fun to Fatal

Book Review: Driver's Ed by Caroline Cooney

When the kids in Mr. Fielding's driver's ed class talk about stealing the Thickly Settled sign near the forest, he was barely aware of the conversation. He was so burnt out on living that he neglected to teach the only class where failure may result in death on the road. So when his students end up stealing a stop sign and a woman dies, he determines to teach better and find out who is responsible. The only problem is he doesn't know anyone's name and the students all look alike.

My favorite part about Driver's Ed was getting inside the minds of the two main teen characters. It was like taking a step back in time for me and remembering what it was like to have a crush and doing stupid things to get attention. It was interesting to follow the teens' thoughts and justifications as well as to experience their torment as they continually choose to hide the truth. While telling the truth won't bring someone back from the dead, it's the first step in making things better.

I think Driver's Ed is a great book for young adults that not only teaches you that the thrill of the moment may lead to something disastrous, but more importantly that the emotions that fill your soul afterward cause tremendous anguish.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Shocking Statistics

Let's all drive safely so we don't end up being one of these tragic statistics.

Statistics courtesy of NHTSA 2009.
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