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Who Taught You How To Drive? Autopian Asks

Father Teaching His Teenage Son To Drive
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Learning to drive is a rite of passage for American teenagers. I know for me there was nothing greater than turning 15, getting a permit, and hitting the road. Turning 16 was even better because it meant that I could drive somewhere without my parents in the car. There are many ways to learn the art of driving. Some people teach themselves while others go to schools or have someone else teach them. Each method is a journey on its own. Who taught you how to drive?

I was prepared to drive years before I got my permit. If you’re a resident of the Midwest, you’re probably aware that Wisconsin Dells calls itself the “Waterpark Capital of the World.” Wisconsinians love water almost as much as they love cheese, and Wisconsin Dells is a go-to destination for water-based adventure. In the 1990s, Wisconsin Dells was also a place for go-karts. There were large theme parks in Wisconsin Dells that were just clusters of several multi-level go-kart tracks for everyone from tiny kids to adults. Some of these parks remain today.

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It was at these parks that I first started falling in love with driving. The Wisconsin Dells go-kart tracks of the 1990s and the early 2000s were intense. The tracks had steep drops, rickety wooden surfaces, and the karts were way faster than they should have been. Some of the go-kart parks in Wisconsin Dells had drops so steep that your little go-kart would catch air as you launched off of them. I think that’s what the kids call safety third.

Mt Olympus Go Karts
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I loved these go-karts so much that in 2000, my parents bought me a go-kart of my own. My little Manco Critter was one-wheel-drive and made all of 5 HP, but it was my own transportation and you bet I buried the throttle wherever I drove it. My Critter is the vehicle that introduced me to off-roading, drifting, off-road racing, and the concept of a time trial. I drove that go-kart so hard that I wore through drive tires from burnouts, bent a steering arm from a crash, and found myself driving so fast I beat older neighborhood kids who were straddling more powerful quads and dirt bikes.

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That kart and I seemed unstoppable for a good five years. Then, one day in 2005, I was driving my kart through an abandoned farm when something metal got kicked up by the drive tire and sent straight into the kart’s block.

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I took driver’s ed in high school when I was 15. The instructor was a brilliant guy who went above and beyond the bare minimum. He didn’t have to teach us how to drive defensively, but he did so, anyway, because he didn’t want to see any of his students end up on the news.

When I got my permit at 15, I took what I learned over all of those years and applied it to real cars. My mom had me drive her 60 miles in a 2003 GMC Envoy XL the day I got my permit. It was exhilarating. Weirdly, my mom was unintentionally a bad teacher. She was a self-taught driver with bad habits like always driving in the left lane, never using turn signals, and always driving well under the flow of traffic and well under the speed limit.

Illinois requires teenagers to rack up 50 hours of documented driving with a parent or guardian over 9 months before getting their license. When I rolled up to the DMV 9 months after getting my permit, I plopped down papers documenting over 470 hours of driving, over 160 hours of it were at night. Yep, I racked up an honest 20 days of driving. Why? My mom used me as her chauffeur, so I drove her somewhere literally every day.

I bet you can guess the shock on my face when the lady at the DMV didn’t even look at my stack of papers before tossing them into the trash. I could have lied about my experience and she wouldn’t have noticed. Some of my friends did lie about their hours and got their licenses, anyway.

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I suppose this is a long way of saying that my driving skills are the result of myself and some really good instruction. How about you? Who taught you how to drive?

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Knowonelse
Knowonelse
7 days ago

My mother. Mom was the leadfoot, while dad was the more reserved driver. I was placed in the driver seat to steer long before I could reach the pedals (around 12-13 yo or so). This was in the ’64 F100 crewcab that I still drive. Mom taught me the trucker headlight flashing signals, how to drive in snow, offroading, and much much more. Since we went to the Lake Tahoe area to ski and camped in parking lots, I was able to learn to drive in those conditions in a safe place. I taught our kids, and now my daughter is teaching my grandkid (13 yo) the basics. I have been providing driving wisdom to the grandkid just as a matter of course while driving. And this summer will find a safe (and legal) place to start teaching them. Gram also provided some mentorship with her driving as well. Veering over to hit a side street that provided a little bump was all on Gram. Still do that.

Greatest piece of advice to give to a new driver that is a video gamer is this: Threat awareness. Just as in a video game, you always are alert for what might become a threat whjile driving. Is that car at a driveway or intersection still rolling? Potential threat. Car fully stopped? Not threat, assess next threat. Rinse and repeat. This singel piece of advice took one of my kids from a scared driver to an alert and confident driver once the concept took hold.

Lori Hille
Lori Hille
7 days ago

Mom and Dad taught me mainly. Mom had a one year old Fox body Mustang V8. We started in the mall parking lot and progressed from there. Our high school still had drivers’ ed with the simulator (which we called the stimulator) and a behind the wheel instructor with a dual control car. He rode the brakes so much that it was difficult to learn. If my mom was nervous about letting her kid drive her first brand new car, she didn’t let on.

The bigger challenge came six months later when I got my first car, an MGB. Dad picked that one out for a sixteen year old! The clutch was super firm and the accelerator was a tiny metal pedal that was pretty much off or on. I spent several days stalling out in the mall lot, crying that I would never learn. It took a week. For my final exam, my dad took me to Rose Hills… the cemetery. It has a lot of steep hills. I had to prove that I could start, stop, and park on hills. Added benefit was that I couldn’t kill any residents. It’s actually a pretty place and it was a smart idea. I kept that car for ten years and every car I had until my 2013 Nissan Leaf was a fun stick.

Freelivin1327
Freelivin1327
8 days ago

My Dad taught me how to drive which went along w/ driver’s ed in high school which is where I got the most experience. He just helped on test drives at home later but was still crucial. Ours were 3 things: classroom instruction including the scary crash videos- those were so creepy, simulators w/ driver controls- those were fun, & test drives w/ classmates and the instructor has their own brake pedal on the passenger side
I couldn’t wait to get my license and then promptly got a speeding ticket shortly thereafter going 60 in a 45. It wasn’t long before I was at it again and have never been in an accident. I truly love driving even if it’s in bad traffic.
My brother tried to teach me stick in his AMC Eagle SX/4 (It was awesome!) But I was terrible and couldn’t learn it for a while…eventually I bought my own car just to learn stick (84 Jetta which was really fun to drive)

Parsko
Parsko
8 days ago

Dad.

But, it started on the lawn tractor (Cub Cadet), which had an actual clutch. Then, dirtbike. Eventually he took me down to Ninegret Park, which is an old WWII airfield. Got out, switched places, and off we went. I can still remember it. It’s the perfect way to learn stick. Just focus on the stick, and go straight…. for a ~half mile.

This eventually led to me driving back and forth between his place and my mom’s. This was a 90 mile, 2 hour drive, mostly highway. “Just stay in the right lane and do 62”. No cruise control, no license, mostly at night. Did this for a half year.

Took drivers ed and did the 6 hour training as well for insurance. Passed my written and practical first time. Had to hide the fact that I got my license from my stepmother for 6 months before I was “allowed” to drive (she didn’t live with us full time, I had a messed up, but probably “normal” childhood like everyone else). I still can’t believe that shit.

PlatinumZJ
PlatinumZJ
8 days ago

Even though I had a driver’s ed class in high school (small sessions for the actual driving part during the summer, with larger gatherings during the school year for the book stuff and gory videos), my parents — mostly, my dad — made sure I had logged plenty of hours before getting into the driver’s ed car. Since I was only about 14 at the time, this mostly consisted of me driving a ’90 Suburban or Tracker around a deserted private college parking lot. The winter before I got my learner’s permit was rather messy, so Dad took me and the then-new ’97 Grand Cherokee over to a church parking lot that had serious drainage issues, and thus plenty of ice so I could experience sliding. All of it was truly beneficial.

I can’t remember too much of the written test, other than I missed some question about drag racing, and the ‘road test’ didn’t consist of much more than executing basic driving maneuvers on residential streets.

Are you not entertained?
Are you not entertained?
8 days ago

My mom.

Day 1: I remember my first trip around the block and the many MANY stalls. Roll 10 feet. Stall. 20 feet. Stall. She yelled at me that I was going to destroy the transmission. A few more laps, and she couldn’t handle it anymore and we were done for the day.

Day 2: Getting the hang of it. I didn’t stall a whole lot. I was gaining some confidence. Maybe, MAYBE, I could be driving on a somewhat busier road in a week. Such an optimistic fool was I.

Day 3: On a 4 lane busy road where I had to stop at a stoplight on a hill. Seeing another car in my rear view mirror that seemed like 2 inches (but probably 5 feet in real life). I was sweating, heart pounding, a certain sphincter tightly closed, and so so not ready for a green light. I was so afraid of rolling back that I hit the gas so hard that I think my mom’s Mercury Topaz freaked out. No one ever gunned it like that. I’m not sure what the guy behind me thought, but I know my mom’s reaction. Let’s just say I didn’t think my mom knew some of the four letter words that were yelled. I didn’t care. All I knew that I survived. I didn’t roll into the car behind me which I was sure would absolutely definitely 100 percent cause an explosion that would take out everyone around us.

I got better fast. Who knew what dangerous death puzzle she would get me in next. I would be ready.

My mom taught me most of what I knew about cars. She was a farm kid growing up. She had to know how to help fix vehicles. Despite the stress of those first few days of learning, I really appreciate what she taught me.

Last edited 8 days ago by Are you not entertained?
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