From Permit to License, Part Five: Sunday Drive in the Country

 Prep for the Autumn Roads Ahead | The Allstate Blog

The second Sunday in November was an unseasonably sunny and warm day, the type made for the joys of a drive in the country.

My son has had his Learner’s Permit for 3 months. By now, he has become accustomed to driving on local roads, as well as performing the various tasks that are required to pass the state driver’s license exam. We are taking the gradual steps toward learning how to safely operate a car under all conditions, as put forth in The Parent's Supervised Driving Guide.

After consulting the guide's lesson Adapting to New Landscapes, we prepared to set out into the wilds of southeastern Massachusetts to face our next challenge.

The Parent’s Supervised Driving Guide advises: “When driving in rural or country areas, there are a number of situations that require special attention. The road surface can be affected by loose gravel, slippery conditions after rain or snow, ruts in the driving lanes, and washboard conditions. When approaching oncoming vehicles, watch for soft shoulders or the absence of shoulders.”  

The guide also instructs motorists to watch out for farm animals in the road.                                                                                                   

We didn’t see any of those, but we did encounter pickup trucks hauling muddy ATVs; dozens of motorcyclists out for a long day’s jaunt; and even a couple of those three-wheeled vehicles that are now favored by older riders. Mostly we saw other folks out navigating these often poorly paved two-lane country roads. 

I didn’t push my son too hard, agreeing that we would drive 3-4 miles up the road, then turn around and circle back. My goals were to see how he would handle the higher speeds, and adjust to the constant need for braking and accelerating.

My biggest stressor was when I sensed my son was either following too close to the slower vehicles ahead of him, and whether he would be able to brake fast enough should other traffic come to a sudden stop.  

Most of the roadway had a speed limit of 45 mph. My son  hadn’t driven that fast previously, and he remarked that he enjoyed operating at the higher speed. I was quick to point out to him each time that the speed limit dropped to 35mph as a “business district” approached, which was usually a gas station with a liquor store inside. We stopped at one of these places so I could teach my son how to pump gas, another lesson teens need to learn prior to setting out on their own.

As it turned out, my son was perfectly capable of accelerating and decelerating in concert with the pickup trucks and horse trailers with whom we shared the road. The only potential issue that we had not considered involved stepping on the gas after waiting at a stoplight. My son said he found the gas pedal on my Toyota different from that on his mother’s car, and that he did not yet have a feel for how hard to step on the accelerator when the light turned green.

But other than a couple of these jackrabbit starts, we completed our journey without incident. When my son returned to the origin point of the day’s lesson, a convenience store parking lot, he pulled into a vacant space next to a phalanx of nine motorcycles. He shut his eyes and let out a deep sigh as he put the car in park and turned off the ignition. “I liked that,” he said. “But I think I’m done for now.” And I remembered that this is still a learning process for him, as well as for me. 

As we switched places and I took the wheel for the drive back to my house, we agreed that we probably wouldn’t have many warm sunny days left this season. And so we decided the next lesson would likely involve not just driving on local highways, but perhaps in winter conditions as well.  

 

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