Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Learning To Drive In America: From Russia With Love

No Bribe Zone – American Driver’s License
Anna R. didn’t think learning to drive at 30-something was so unusual until she moved to Redmond last year. In Moscow, Russia, it’s typical for women of her age to learn to drive for the first time.  Even so, Anna was embarrassed to come here and learn a skill most Americans learn as teenagers. “My husband told me that this is not ballet dancing and not to think about my age.  So we worked it out pretty fast.”  Her husband also volunteered to drive with her on weekends to give her extra practice. “He took care of our baby when I had my lessons. That was a good investment. Now I don't have to ask him to take me places, I can do it myself.”

Anna also tells me that about twenty years ago nearly all drivers in Russia were men.  Now more and more women are getting their licenses. Unfortunately, corruption is wide-spread in Russia and it’s not uncommon for people to bribe officials in order to get a license. Some of Anna’s friends were able to pass the test without any bribes. Another young mother, Natalya Vesolova, recently shared with the Associated Press that she refused to pay the expected bribe. As a result it took her a year and a half and 7 attempts to pass the test. I asked Anna how she feels about living in the U.S. and not having to pay bribes. She replied, “It feels good.”
Anna shared with me that it was Carol Howie, one of our best instructors, who helped her to overcome the fear of driving at 60 miles per hour on the freeway.  “The most difficult part of the learning process was probably driving on highways... what was easy at 30 mph, suddenly seemed to be a challenge at 60 mph. I must confess that my instructor, Carol, really helped me to fight the high speed fear. She was always so calm and confident, and definitely more optimistic about my driving abilities than myself, and eventually she passed this optimism to me, too.”

Carol Howie - Driving Instructor
 Carol tells me that Anna’s experience is typical for people who haven’t learned to drive as a teenager. “If a person has not learned to drive before reaching adulthood there is usually a reason which may still be present, such as the fear of driving on the freeway.  In Anna’s case, we have to deal with that first to be successful.”  

Anna credits Carol with giving her the confidence to overcome her initial fears.  “Carol was very patient with me, even though she had to repeat certain things many times. Now, when I am driving on my own and have to make decisions on the road, I have to say that I have answers for most situations from my lessons with Carol.  And some confidence on the road (not too much though!) is a great thing!”

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