Erin McCracken: Learning to drive all over again

Boxes. Blockers. 360s. Huh?
Slightly panicked, I’m brainstorming a number of last-minute reasons why what I’m about to do isn’t necessary. Call it nerves.

Boxes. Blockers. 360s. Huh?

Slightly panicked, I’m brainstorming a number of last-minute reasons why what I’m about to do isn’t necessary. Call it nerves.

But since I have no idea what those words have to do with driving, it becomes clear there is a very good reason why I’m sitting in the driver’s seat of a Wallace Driving School training car, with owner and instructor Steve Wallace in the passenger seat.

I’m about to merge from my parking spot on Oak Bay Avenue when the 37-year driving instructor and former Mayor of Quesnel informs me I haven’t done a 360 before I pull out – that is, a 360-degree visual check.

Wallace instructs me to glance over my right shoulder out the car’s rear window and check all three mirrors before looking to the blind spot on my left.

I suspected my driving skills, while not deadly, were lacking. After all, it has been 20 years since my driver training course and road test.

I’ve asked Wallace to give me what is one part road test, two parts driving lesson, given the crush of news headlines relating to horrific collisions, drivers picking off cyclists and pedestrians, and the damage some senior drivers have done.

As I white-knuckle the steering wheel, Wallace relays a long list of driving rules I’ve never heard of. The driver’s road test is also more difficult nowadays, he says.

“If you forget the 360-degree check three times or any portion thereof (on the test), you’re done,” Wallace advises me as we crawl through a construction zone.

“You would have failed before you left the parking lot because you have to do a 360 before leaving your parking space, a 360 on the first turn around the ICBC building (where the road tests start and end), a 360 on the second turn and a 360 left turn out of the (lot).”

I know I’m not alone in my faulty habits. Evidence supports the need that all drivers should undergo refresher driver training, as well as mandatory road test re-examinations every 10 years if we are to become a more road-savvy nation.

Motorists in their golden years should not solely be targeted, considering our bad habits form long before our hair turns grey. With refresher courses, many of us would be better prepared for the road now, and in advance of reaching our senior years.

I cautiously pass a cyclist. Not only have the rules evolved and traffic levels are at an all-time high, whom we share the road with has also changed.

“You haven’t checked your rearview mirror on a break since we started, so check your left shoulder. No, the other one,” Wallace says patiently.

I’m nervous, did I say that already?

Refresher training, coupled with the pressures of undergoing a road test re-examination once every decade, would beef up our skills enough that we would be more deserving of our driving privileges. Our prowess behind the wheel would come in handy as our physical abilities diminish.

“Did I pass?” I ask Wallace hopefully, despite the number of times I asked him, “What does that mean?” during the unofficial test.

It was not without its challenges, but the point is that after an hour of instruction, I’m putting my new-found skills, such as 360-degree visual checks, into practice, along with my new blocking know-how.

Don’t know what blocking is? My point exactly.

Erin McCracken is a reporter with the Victoria News.

emccracken@vicnews.com

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