Saturday, June 16, 2012

My Dad Is Trying to Teach Me to Drive (Give Your Dad a Break!)

Dear Madame L,

My dad is trying to teach me to drive, and he's driving me crazy. He says some things sometimes that make me want to scream. He said yesterday that your reaction time is slower when you're driving faster, and obviously that's not true. Can you help me get through this experience and get my driver's license?


Fifteen And A Half

Dear 15.5,

Madame L feels your pain, but Madame L bets that if your dad were writing to her about these driving lessons, he would say that YOU are the one who is driving HIM crazy. 

Please, give your dad a break, and have some compassion for your dad.

Madame L has also tried to explain to more than a couple of beginning drivers why it's important to drive the speed limit, leave a safe distance between yourself and the car in front of you, and make sure you're alert and using your rear-view and side mirrors constantly as you drive.

Madame L suspects that your dad was trying to explain that at a higher speed, with the same reaction time as at a slower speed, your reaction may not be fast enough. As explained on this website, your vehicle's stopping distance depends on four things:
  • your perception time,
  • your reaction time,
  • your vehicle reaction time, and
  • your vehicle braking capability.
image shows two cars decelerating as they approach a junction. one car stops safely , whilst the other impacts a vehicle at the junction
Here's an excerpt from great physics-class-type explanation of the concept:

"Each incremental increase in speed reduces your ability to react in time to hazards, because you may be covering distance in less time than it takes to react. Normal reaction time is between .75 second and 1.5 seconds, on average. Average reaction time distance at 50 mph would be approximately 83 feet. At 70 mph, it is over 115 feet (over 7 modern car lengths). These numbers do not include braking distance, just reaction time. The average difference in reaction-time distance from 50 mph to 70 mph is about 32 feet... This is particularly important at night, when darkness restricts your visibility... When headlights finally light up a road hazard, it is often too late to avoid it. Many experts would tell you that even 50 mph is too fast for conditions at night, on [a] dark roadway."

Of course, being 15-1/2 years old, you already knew all that, didn't you....And that's yet another reason to give your dad a break.

And please wish him a HAPPY FATHER'S DAY and take extra special care of him. Madame L promises you that the day will come and isn't that far off that you'll be incredibly grateful for all the things your dad has done for you.

Take care,

Madame L

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