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Rules of the Road That Drive Me Crazy

Conversation around the Community Center here at PVE frequently focuses on an unwelcome but relentlessly present event – the DMV notice informing a resident that he or she is due to take a Driving Test.

I received this letter edged in black last week with a two-fold reminder: my age on May 31 and the necessity for frantic cramming usually reserved for a Ph.D. dissertation. We’re all confident in our knowledge about the Rules of the Road, yet the specter of the dreaded written test looms.

I have revisited the California Driver’s Handbook (readily available on the Internet or in the PVE Library).

Below are selected test questions that might prove ambiguous for mature test-takers like us with an offer of suggestions for answering these trick questions.

1. True or False: Drivers should allow older pedestrians more time to cross the street. They are more likely to die as a result of a crash than younger pedestrians.

Honestly? According to the DMV, this should be marked True. Of course as pedestrians, we know this is true. The AARP should insist questions such as this be reworded to include something of value to mature test-takers like “Be sure to take off your hat when you plan to cross the street, so motorists can tell you are old and will hit you less hard.”

That should do it.

2. True or False: At railroad or train crossings: Look in both directions and listen for trains. Expect a train on any track at any time traveling in either direction.

The DMV says this is true. But again, people like us consider what kind of train we are expecting. For one of the chronically off-schedule Amtrak commuter trains, the answer would be True. They’re in a hurry so take great care.

However, if we’re talking about the Wine Train that runs from downtown Napa to downtown St. Helena, the answer may be different. Scheduled primarily around cocktails on the way, dinner on the way back, these trains are ALWAYS on time. With a top speed of about one mile per hour, there’s plenty of time to see it coming and get safely across the tracks.

3. True or False: The maximum speed limit on most California highways is 65 mph and 55 mph on two-lane undivided highways.

True is patently incorrect. PVE has set a standard of 15 mph as a safe speed on campus, and I’m certain it’s the same for surface streets in Solano County. Traveling at 55 mph as we drive to the grocery store or to doctors’ appointments is an invitation for disaster, and we will find ourselves transported by medical helicopters to trauma centers at breakneck speed.

These ambiguous questions and others need to be addressed. I am considering scheduling a PowerPoint presentation to cover these issues. Until then, simply shred the letter from the DMV and wait for them to make the next move. 😉

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