Getting defensive about driving

One of my favorite lines in Dustin Hoffman?s movie, ?Rainman,? was, ?I?m an excellent driver.?

In the movie, though, Hoffman was not an experienced driver like I am, or so I thought.

Let me explain.

Several years ago, our son Joey took driver?s education. He was taught the rules of the road behind the wheel and in the classroom.

It seems like only yesterday, but while driving to the store with Joey he had a few words to say about my ?excellent? driving: ?Mom, you just ran that stop sign!?

My response was that I didn?t.

?What are you talking about?? I said. ?I had come to a full stop at the intersection before proceeding through.?

?You ran the stop sign,? he insisted. ?The sign was back there and you didn?t stop.?

Sitting at the intersection and sizing up the situation, I realized he might have a point. To be sure, though, I talked to a police officer. He reaffirmed that Joey was correct.

The officer told me that drivers should stop at the sign and then creep slowly into the intersection, yielding or stopping again if necessary.

It turns out I had been running stop signs more than I thought.

Remedial classes are sometimes in order, particularly for anyone who has learned bad habits?whether it?s driving or something else. A lot of road rage could be avoided if people took refresher courses.

It?s scary to see some people behind the wheel. One case involved Joey?s grandmother, who admits she used to get mad at other motorists when she was driving.

She can be one of the sweetest, kindest people you?ll ever want to know?but in a car, she devolves into something unrecognizable.

The sound of the horn resonates through traffic and her anger builds as motorists are either driving too slow, too fast or not at all. Whatever the problem, it?s as if all her patience went out the window when she stepped into the car.

Maybe I am exaggerating a little, but she does seem to have a short fuse when it comes to other drivers sharing the road with her.

Most of the time, I try to be ?an excellent driver,? and I usually don?t get mad when someone cuts in front of me in town, goes before me at a four-way stop sign or any other number of traffic errors.

I do have one pet peeve, though, and that happens when I am driving on two-lane highways with several subsidiary roads.

Even though I don?t lay on my horn, flash my headlights or give rude gestures, there?s nothing worse than a motorist hurrying to get onto a main intersection when I am barely five car lengths behind.

Pulling out from a side road wouldn?t be so bad if the driver accelerated in order to stay in sync with the flow of traffic.

Maybe it doesn?t bother anybody else, but the really irksome part for me is when someone hurries onto the main road and then will putt-putt along at 45 mph. It?s almost as if they want me to see a bumper sticker that reads, ?I may be slow, but I?m ahead of you.?

When my son told me I was running stop signs, I made adjustments. But sometimes backseat drivers can be more annoying than helpful.

Case in point is my husband, Randy. On long trips we used to switch off (note the word ?used to?) behind the wheel so nobody got too tired.

Apparently he didn?t like my ?excellent? driving and would constantly let me know it. He thought I sped up and slowed down too much when passing cars. Even though he might have a point, the problem was that I didn?t want to go too slow when passing cars. It might be a phobia of mine, but I don?t want to hang out in the passing lane any longer than necessary and risk a head-on collision.

Turn signals also can be exasperating when someone doesn?t use them properly. There have been times I?ve waited at an intersection, yielding to cars on the main thoroughfare, and a driver will turn on his signal at the same moment of the turn.

Had they signaled 100 feet earlier, it would not only be courteous to other drivers, but it?s the law.

I?ve been taking a bit of a refresher course on what is legal when operating a motor vehicle, and most of the time my driving is satisfactory. But, I do have one final thought just in case a police officer reads this.

When I was talking about running those stop signs, I sure hope there?s a statute of limitations on driving infractions. After all, I am an excellent driver. Happy trails!