The Ghost Bike

Enjoying The Journey

“Where are we going, today?” asked the students as they loaded into our Driver Ed car. I suppressed a smile as their eyes grew wide in disbelief at hearing my response. Our journey, that beautiful autumn day, would include a visit to a Ghost Bike. As expected, the termhad captured their imagination, and aroused their curiosity.

imageWith the first of four drivers behind the wheel, we journeyed on, as I queried them about the various warning signs along the way. We were passing through an historical area and an area where there were bike trails and many signs indicating shared roadways and bicycle crossings. We took note of the speed limits and discussed the curvaceous conditions of the roads and lack of shoulders. When they remarked that the posted limit seemed too fast, we discussed the meaning of the termprudent and the Basic Speed Law. image


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Ten Common Myths About The Road Test

Myth #1  Examiners Must Meet Quotas

Now think about that.  Even if you meet the criteria, the examiner will not a issue a license because there is a limit for the day? Totally silly.  If you meet the criteria for licensure, the examiner is happy to issue your license.

Myth #2  Examiners Try To Trick The Applicant

Again, totally silly.  What would be the point of “tricking” an applicant?  Each applicant is subject to the same criteria for the basic skills test: several left and right turns, parallel park, and a three point turn.  While you are performing the basic skills, you are traveling through several intersections to demonstrate your ability to make responsible decisions and handle your vehicle safely.

Myth #3 The Parallel Park Is Senseless

Haven’t had the need to parallel park since the road test?  That’s okay. Plenty of people do regularly, but that’s not really the point of the parallel park.  The Basic Skills Road Test is the opportunity to demonstrate your skill in controlling a vehicle in both forward and reverse motion.  Forward movement, includes safely moving your vehicle through left and right turns.  The parallel park and three-point turn demonstrate your ability to control your vehicle while in reverse gear.

Myth #4 It Is Best To Take Your Road Test At The Easy Site

The road test requires the same criteria at every road test site.  Why would you want an easy road test site, anyway? Wouldn’t you want to know you can handle a vehicle safely on your own wherever you drive? If your time and experience behind the wheel has provided opportunity for you to acquire the necessary skills and knowledge to handle the vehicle responsibly, every site is easy. The road test is, after all, a Basic Skills Test.

Myth #5  I Want A Different Examiner, So I Am Going To A Different Site.

New York State Road Test Examiners rotate regularly to different sites. You will not avoid getting the same examiner by testing in a different location. If you failed a road test, the best way to succeed on the next, is to read the comments noted by the previous examiner and correct those errors in your driving. You may want to consider taking a lesson from a professional driving school.

Myth #6 The Examiner Made Me Nervous

Examiners are people too. They understand that most applicants are nervous during the road test and they do their best to put you at ease.  Instead of thinking about yourself, try putting yourself in the Examiner’s place. They have never seen you drive, yet they are getting into your vehicle and you are driving off with them. Do you think they might be nervous? How about you do your best to put the examiner at ease. Show them you value their life by looking around and controlling your vehicle carefully. Demonstrate that you care about safety and have knowledge of the right-of-way rules that govern intersections.  At the completion of the test, the examiner is happy to issue your license if you demonstrate you can handle a vehicle responsibly.

Myth #7 The Examiner Will Provide A Car

In New York State, you must provide your own vehicle.  Your vehicle’s inspection, registration, and insurance must be up to date, or the examiner will not get in your vehicle. Your vehicle must have working doors and seatbelts. You should have clean windows and mirrors and nothing hanging from the inside rearview mirror, as this is a violation of Vehicle and Traffic Law.

Myth #8 The Road Test Begins At The Department of Motor Vehicles

When you schedule your road test, you must check the directions for the location of your road test site.  These are very specific, including the street where the road test begins and instructions in how to line up at the curb so you are facing the correct direction. You are also instructed to look for the sign that indicates the road test site. You and your accompanying driver must stay with your vehicle. The examiner will come to you. There is no need to get out and report your arrival to anyone.

Myth #9 There Is A Building At The Site

The road test site is simply a certified perimeter that includes several streets where the examiner directs the applicant to perform the basic skills.  The test begins at a curb on a designated street. There is not a building at which you will report. The accompanying driver must stand at the curb for the ten or twelve minutes of test time. Therefore, you should notify your accompanying driver to be prepared with proper gear to stand out in the weather while you drive.

Myth #10 Passing The Road Test Means I Am A Good Driver

Passing the road test indicates you demonstrated standard basic skills during a very short drive. Essentially, it means you may now remove your training wheels and drive solo (without your accompanying driver). The examiner does not expect you to be perfect; therefore, every newly licensed driver is on probation for six months. (See Chapter 2, Keeping Your License, in your Driver’s Manual).

There is no such thing as a good driver, only a driver who is either responsible or irresponsible. Driving requires constant vigilance, as it is a continuous moment-by-moment adventure in an always changing environment. When a driver allows their attitude to slip and  disregards the risk that exists when moving a two ton vehicle between 25-95 feet per second, that driver is irresponsible. We must be able to count on each other to reduce the risk we share. Stay alert, Stay responsible, and enjoy the journey. Blessings to you!

Just One Reason To Count Stop Signs


A warning for those who do not pay attention.

It is a beautiful, blue-sky day and you are out enjoying the journey.  Did you know that most crashes occur on good weather days?   Lovely days lend themselves to distracting thoughts, and that can be dangerous.  Responsible Drivers must make between 100-300 decisions per mile.  That much looking and thinking is more than many are willing to invest in driving.  That is disconcerting, because most crashes could be avoided if we saw what we needed to see.

Think about that for a moment.  While enjoying that drive, are you completely focused on recognizing and reducing risk?  If we are thinking about something else, that distraction is enough to cause a missed detail that could potentially lead to a crash.  In other words, if our brains are somewhere else while we are physically behind the wheel, we are impaired.

I noticed some new warning signs around town, just like the one above.  Why did traffic division see the need to add the extra warning to the Stop sign?  Most crashes occur at intersections. When we are not diligent, we fail to assess the intersection correctly.  The warning gives drivers information they should have gathered on their own.  Count the stop signs at every intersection and you will not be the one headed for the crash.  If you train your brain to correctly assess each intersection, you will increase your chances of enjoying your journey and contribute to the safety of others also.  Happy counting, and Blessings to you!


The Enforcer


We learn to spot them from a distance..most of the time.   Alarmed, we immediately brake check.  That is, we brake and check our behavior.  Maybe our speed was a little too fast, or we were about to run that light or roll that stop.   Until we see the ENFORCER.

Instantly, we become the model of a Responsible Driver.  We quickly find our brake and realize there is a correct way to drive.  Suddenly there is no better driver on the road than us.  Amazing how quickly we can alter our behavior when the ENFORCER is in town.

Did you ever pause to think why we pay Enforcers to police our behavior, or pay legislators to write laws restricting behavior? Would we need them if we simply ordered our own lives?  The Enforcers are there to protect citizens from those who do not respect the lives of others. But who should be the real enforcers?  Wouldn’t it better if we each took responsibility for our selves?  What if we each drove correctly?  Couldn’t we reduce the risk we share daily on the road, and consequently reduce the number of crashes and resulting deaths?

Next time we are tempted by the stresses of our hurried lives to make that imprudent choice, let’s give it a second thought.  Is it really worth the risk?  Remember, we all count on each other to Recognize and Reduce the Risk we all share while navigating the roadways.  Let’s breathe a little, slow down, and Enjoy The Journey.  Blessings to you!

The Power In Attitude


Remember all those firsts?  The first day of school, first job, first love, first car, or whatever. Exhilarated by new beginnings, you wanted to be at your best and do your best.  After a few weeks or months you become complacent, take things for granted, lose your edge, and start complaining.  School is boring, your boss and coworkers are jerks, the person you thought might be “the one” isn’t making you happy, and your car isn’t your dream car anymore.

So what changed?  It happens all so fast, if we don’t guard against it.  We become the unpleasant malcontent, while blaming it all on something or someone else. It is amazing how fast ATTITUDES can change.

We often assume an ATTITUDE to excuse our behavior, and that kind of person can be difficult.  Acquiring habits of patience, thankfulness, and humility is far more productive in cultivating a positive  ATTITUDE.  You become a pleasant person that people do not shun and you find yourself actually making progress along a more pleasant journey.  ATTITUDE is a powerful life force.

It works in driving, too.  More often than not, driver error is a direct result of our ATTITUDE.  Drive correctly.  Pretend the examiner is sitting beside you, the officer is at the next corner, that person you were going to extend the unlawful hand signal to is your girlfriend’s mother.  Realize we all make errors, but we also rely on each other to be responsible.  Change your ATTITUDE, you can change your life.  You may even save a life!  Happy journeying.

Don’t Blame It On Mother Nature- It’s Simple Physics

Sicher fahren im Winter bei verschneiter Fahrbahn
You CAN journey safely if you reduce speed and increase your following distance.

You hear it every time the snow falls…radio announcers suggesting you avoid a route.. a lane  closed due to a crash.  You cringe to think of the stressful drive ahead and contemplate calling in sick.  You are nervous about going out, not so much because of the weather, you say.  You are just worried about the “other guy”.

Here are simple steps you can take, both before you go and during your journey if you want to reduce your risk of a bad weather crash.

Before you go, be certain your vehicle is in good condition. A full tank of gas, good brakes, working defroster, good wipers, and full washer fluid will reduce your stress and your risk.  On a longer journey, carry a spare gallon of washer fluid in the trunk. And of utmost importance, you must have good tires with deep tread.  If your tires are low on tread and are not all-weather or snow tires, you will not have the traction you need to safely control your vehicle.  Low tread not only increases your risk, but also endangers others while you are slip-sliding down the roadway.

Dress for the weather, not the warmth of the car.  Bring your jacket, boots, and gloves even if you choose not to wear them during your drive.  You will not regret having them should you need them in case of a break down.  Wear polarized sunglasses.  They reduce glare and help you recognize risk sooner.

Drive slower than you would in perfect conditions.  Remember Limit simply means no faster than.  Good judgment is necessary.  Drive at a speed that is wise for the conditions.  Any time snow, rain, ice, leaves, gravel, dirt come between your tire and the pavement, you DO NOT have traction, which means you DO NOT have control.  All-wheel drive vehicles are not exempt from this natural law.  You must slow down even when operating in all-wheel drive.

Space is Your Friend!  Double your following distance.  Leave at least six seconds between you and the vehicle ahead in wet weather.  If the road is snow-covered and slick, add more space.  Even with excellent tires and brakes, it will take at least 50 percent more space for you to stop, even if you are very attentive.  It’s simple physics: anything between your tire and dry pavement erases traction. No traction=No control.

 The most common cause of bad weather crashes is not the weather.  You CAN avoid the crash, if you avoid these two common driver errors.  Speed– Driving Too Fast For Conditions and Tailgating – Following Too Closely. Reduce Your Speed and Increase Following Distance.  You can make the drive safely.  Enjoy the journey!

Hidden Danger..Leaf It Be!

Boy in leaf pile

It is Autumn..and a stunningly beautiful one at that.  Neighbors armed with rakes are soaking up the abundant rays while their little ones shuffle through crunchy leaves and squeal in delight at their rustling.

If your neighborhood policy compels you pile your leaves by the roadside for their vacuum, your mountains of leaves may temporarily narrow the driving lanes.  And those colorful mountains pose an equally compelling temptation to adventurous young ones.  Beware!

This time of year brings to mind a story shared in one of our classes.  A motorist was tempted by those leaf mountains lining the road, but at the last moment before barreling through them changed his mind and steered  clear.  Glancing in his rearview, he saw a child pop up from the pile he had nearly demolished.  He shared how his heart beat rapidly at the realization of the near tragedy he narrowly avoided only a split second before.

And don’t forget that those leaves can erase the traction between your tire and the pavement, particularly when they are wet.  Make wise choices to reduce the risk.  And enjoy the journey!

The Ghost Bike

“Where are we going, today?”  asked the students as they loaded into our Driver Ed car.   I suppressed a smile as their eyes grew wide in disbelief at hearing my response.   Our journey, that beautiful autumn day, would include a visit to a Ghost Bike.  As expected, the term had captured their imagination, and aroused their curiosity.

imageWith the first of four drivers behind the wheel, we journeyed on, as I queried them about the various warning signs along the way.  We were passing through an historical area and an area where there were bike trails and many signs indicating shared roadways and bicycle crossings.  We took note of the speed limits and discussed the curvaceous conditions of the roads and lack of shoulders.  When they remarked that the posted limit seemed too fast, we discussed the meaning of the term prudent and the Basic Speed Law.  image

Just about the time when they asked “why would anyone ride a bike here when there is not much space,” we came upon a few bicyclists.  They soon realized their only option was to stay back and patiently share the road.  We had arrived just in time to switch drivers, and we pulled into a driveway at the edge of an apple orchard.  We all exited the car, and it was then they noticed the Ghost Bike.  Not quite the adventure they had imagined.

The Ghost Bike marks the time and place where lives were forever altered.
The Ghost Bike marks the time and place where lives were forever altered. “Ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee”

In that sobering moment, as I explained the history of the Ghost Bike, they could see the consequences of irresponsible driving and how it changed eternity for at least two families and their friends.  The return journey was quiet and thoughtful, and careful; and hopefully they will return safely as Responsible Drivers from all of their future journeys.

Enjoy your journey.  And please remember to share the road.  Blessings to you!

Yes, We Still Have To Share

Look Ahead!
Look Ahead!

Get Off The Road. Use The Sidewalk!  That is the voice of a driver I witnessed trying to edge a bicyclist off the road with his car.  Sadly, he did not read page 89 in the NYS Driver’s Manual and does not understand that even when we’ve outgrown the toddler stage, we must share the road if we are to arrive safely.

If we’ve  not been in their perilous position, we often under estimate the risk we drivers pose to those with whom we must share the road.  We must understand their needs if we are to share  the road safely.

If you were a bicyclist…you would not have the protection a car provides; you have only two tires and must swerve or suddenly change speed to avoid hazards, the right side of the road often contains hazards that will flatten your tire.  You are not as visible as a car.  The speed of a passing vehicle may cause you to lose control.  If you are hit by a car, your chance of serious injury is very real.

Understanding these risks can give the driver wisdom in how to reduce the risk to cyclists with whom we must share the road.  Slow down when approaching a cyclist, their life is no less valuable than yours.  What if you were on that bike?  Give them space.

Look into turns before moving into that direction, and check your blind spot on your right before making right turns.  Bicyclists are allowed to share the road with us and are also supposed to obey traffic devices.  Understand the meaning of hand signals, that is their means of communication.

Be smart.  Driving is never “all about me, baby.”  Let’s all enjoy the journey.  See you out there!

Are You Reading Me?

Can you tell what is ahead?

Please! I am not a decoration. Did you read and understand me?  I have given you an important clue about your journey ahead.  What will you do with that information?

We often “see” but do not always think about what we see. You may have guessed by now the road is not smooth ahead, but “crossing”? Did you recognize that means intersection?

What would happen if this intersection did not have bars and red lights? Would you have slowed to look carefully? Why do you suppose some vehicles, such as a school bus are required to stop before the tracks?

Now look closer…Are you really assessing the entire risk? How many tracks does this crossing have? What does that mean to you?

How many tracks do I have?
How many tracks do I have?

There are many crossings without bars and lights…and those mechanical devices may not be working correctly. So your brain must always be working.

No zippedy-do-dahing here…it is no contest between your little vehicle and that powerful train that may take a mile or longer to stop.

So your task…is to make it your mission to recognize and reduce the risk. Stay alive, keep your passengers safe, and remember we are sharing the roadways with all types of vehicles and people who also want to enjoy their journey.