Technology makes learning to drive redundant
IWAS driving to work one morning a few years ago when I decided to pull in to a drive-thru coffee shop. I ordered a large regular and once at the window I grabbed it. That is when my troubles began.
You see, I was driving a 1941 Fargo one-ton stake bed truck and, believe it or not, its designers had made no provision for the consumption or securing of a large coffee cup. I looked at the very flat metal floor and decided there was no way that the cup would stay upright or in one place there, so I quickly placed the steaming cup between my thighs and started to drive off.
Of course, I had to declutch and place the old girl in first, then swing the long shift lever to the dash. This resulted in the first rather painful spill. About 200 metres down the highway and two shifts later, I had had enough and pulled over. I took a sip from the remaining quarter of a cup and watched as the waves subsided in the small ocean of coffee that was making its way across the floorboards in tidal fashion. I then dispensed with the last of the coffee in an offering to Mother Earth at the shoulder of the road.
I have never tried to multi-task in an old vehicle again as I know it is a fool’s errand. You see, old vehicles required several things of their drivers. The first was a certain level of skill. Old designs were quite unforgiving and if the clutch and shift were not played just right, a terrible grinding noise would issue forth from below the floorboards as agonized gears chipped and lost their teeth. A moment’s distraction from steering could also prove troublesome, for when one glanced forward once more, the vehicle would have altered its direction of travel and would be heading for the weeds or, worse, oncoming traffic. A panicked correction would start a process of physics where a loose assembly of parts (the vehicle in question) quickly corrected would set up a series of harmonic oscillations that would end in the choosing of a new random direction of travel unassisted by the human operator and from which few options existed save for the slamming on of the rather inefficient braking systems. In many cases, the application of emergency adrenalin-assisted braking to an old mechanical or early hydraulic system would result in the immediate failure of that system followed by a freewheeling path to another braking system such as a tree, ditch or fence line.
Old vehicles were in effect intolerant of mistakes and any driver not wanting to end up with a chrome knob imbedded in his or her forehead or reluctant to test the strength of the front windshield as a passenger retention device planned ahead. Drivers paid attention to oncoming traffic and expected and received warning of things such as turns and lane changes from the cars around them.
In return, they semaphored others their intentions by also signalling and planning their vehicular movements. Anyone who flouted these simple pre- cautions ended up a casualty, and even small accidents in an old car were serious. Pre-war cars literally fell to pieces in an impact, while the post-war cars stayed more intact — but their occupants fell to pieces, ripped to small insignificant bits by the wonderful chrome trim, radio knobs and stainless steel decorations on their metal dashboards.
The modern driver has no such worries. Modern cars do so many things for us we can drive them without any level of measurable skill. In fact, we do not really need to spend much time thinking about things other than how to change the colour of the disco display on the multiplex TV/GPS/inertial guidance/satellite-assisted restaurant reservation system. There is no longer any need to signal turns or lane changes. Let’s face it, the massive effort to move the signal lever is just plain irksome and can seriously affect your flouting of the anti-texting, anti-phoning, antimakeup-applying, anti-coffee-suckingbreakfast-eating laws, thus spoiling your commute.
Besides, the cars around you all have anti-lock brakes, computers that modify emergency lane changes, handling and support systems and warning lights in their rear-view mirrors and airbags. Most signs, such as stop signs and red lights, are at best just advisory or at least a cunning method of extorting money for the coffers of the local town council.
Given how easy our modern cars are to drive and how they do so much for us, there really is no need to learn how to drive.
— Postmedia News
1955 Ford F-100: Never multi-task in an old vehicle as it is a fool’s errand.