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JENKINS: Rules of the road for teenage drivers

Photo by Howard Reed

Photo by Howard Reed

It was inevitable, I suppose: after my column a couple of weeks ago on driving in traffic, I received the obligatory e-mails from parents who were shocked -- shocked, I tell you! -- that I would recommend such aggressive tactics. Apparently their main concern was that their teenagers would be unduly influenced by my bad example.

First, let me say that I had no idea so many teenagers read my column each week. Obviously, I'm much cooler than I thought, and certainly much cooler than my own teenagers ever dreamed.

Second, I'd like to congratulate the parents of those teens who are regular readers. You're raising some exceptionally intelligent and perceptive young people.

But to get back to the issue of teen driving, allow me to point out that as an amateur driving instructor I am now on my third teenager. That means I'm not even really an amateur. In fact, I'm pretty sure the school system would hire me to teach driver's ed if it weren't for my history of writing newspaper columns that encourage juvenile delinquency.

In my defense, the purpose of that last column wasn't to get your teenagers to drive faster. It was to get YOU to drive faster, so you'll get out of my way when I'm trying to get to work. With my own teens, I take a much simpler approach, consisting of only two rules:

Driving rule number 1: Don't be an idiot. We all know that teenagers are more likely to behave idiotically than most other people, except for politicians and coaches of losing football teams. But that's no excuse, I tell my teens, for YOU to behave like an idiot.

So slow down when it's raining. Don't ride people's bumpers. Approach blind hills and curves with caution. Don't try to text with one hand and drive with the other. And never bet on Georgia versus Florida, regardless of who's favored.

Driving rule number 2: Everyone else is an idiot. This philosophy is an extension of the defensive driving mantra that was drummed into my head back when I was taking driver's ed. It presupposes that, in any given situation, all of the other drivers around you are going to behave stupidly.

Let's say you're approaching an intersection, for example, where another car is waiting to pull out. You clearly have the right of way. Can you therefore safely assume that the other driver will wait patiently for you to pass?

No, you cannot. Much better if you assume that the idiot will pull out right in front of you. That way, you'll never be disappointed. On rare occasions, you may even be pleasantly surprised.

Anyway, I hope those of you who had a problem with my last driving column will ask your teenagers to read this one. Then again, you probably won't have to ask, because all the cool teens read it already.

Rob Jenkins is a free-lance writer who lives in Lawrenceville. E-mail him at rjenkinsgdp@yahoo.com.