I have an embarrassing admission to make. After 25 years of doing it, with thousands of miles of experience under my belt in at least 6 countries, today I am finally ready to admit. I am a terrible driver.
Everyone thinks they’re an awesome driver and until recently, I was one of them. I sped with impunity, I lane changed (with signals, I’m not a heathen) with vigor and after driving a manual (stick shift) for 20 odd years, I was no stranger to a clutch balanced hill start.
No, I don’t ‘total’ cars, flip them or create pile ups. I don’t swerve across lanes with no awareness for other road users and I’ll practically get off the road to avoid a motorcycle. I’ve recovered from 360 spins in snow on the highway, driven myself out of a 3 ft drift with nothing more than front wheel drive and some car mats, and navigated my way across Italy and France with little more than a map from 1988 and a keen sense of where Grenoble might be in relation to Mont Blanc.
I just have a lot of accidents.
This week I was forced to confront the factual evidence supporting my supposed expertise when my insurance company called me to congratulate me; for the first time in 17 years, I do not have any accidents on my driving report.
Which means that for the last 17 years – my entire time in the US – I’ve had at least 1 accident or driving offense on my record (I think I maxed out at 3). Which I think by anyone’s reckoning, makes me a terrible driver. In fact, I’ve had so many I can’t even recount them all.
And with the exception of one instance (my girlfriend open the car door directly into traffic and it was ripped off), every single bump, scratch, dent and crunch was my fault.
The Rear End
Apparently my favorite of all car accidents is the rear end. I’ve had 7 of them.
Two in the same year, and two on the same road at roughly the same time. (no, these weren’t all the same… I’m talking about 4 different incidents). Two were due to animated singing (I’d just nailed the first two verses of Dre’s ‘Next Episode’), and two were due to my desire to change the CD in the player (digital streaming is the only reason I’ve not had a RE since 2008). The first time I rear ended someone I was actually grappling around on the floor of my Beetle trying to recover my Pearl Jam CD – with.both.hands – while slowing down at a stop light.
I’ve rear ended cars at stop lights, at green lights and I even managed to rear end a car which was hidden in a snow drift. I thought it looked like a great opportunity to test my Tacoma’s off road capabilities like in the tv ads (mental pictures of snow flying, Taco careening through deep snow) and drove straight into a brand new (but snow covered) Audi A4.
Note to other drivers: Always, always brush the 4 foot snow drift off your car when parked in the street.
Another favorite seems to be reversing into other cars. Quite a few of those happened because I drove a truck, and really underestimated the length of the truck bed. Indeed, I found out that my brand new, just off the lot, Tacoma was about 4 inches longer than my last Taco the day I bought it and backed into an unsuspecting parked Honda Civic. The man in the drivers seat was shaken.(but not harmed) as I joyfully backed into him.
(FYI.. I’ve never physically injured someone with my driving. Scared them to death, but not physically injured them)
I once reversed into a Lincoln in a parking lot in Wyoming. The lady was very large and didn’t get out of the car to exchange insurance information, which did get me wondering if she was able to get out at all. I hoped her newly dented drivers door didn’t mean she was stuck until the tow truck got there.. she never mentioned it so I’m assuming she was ok. Either that or she’s now living in the Lincoln until she loses some of that weight.
But its not just parked cars. I’ve reversed into poles, into concrete blocks and once into a shopping trolley full of groceries (eggs broke, yuppies were dissatisfied). Not because I’m not looking – my head is on a stick when I’m reversing – but because I underestimate the specifications of my car.
I blame it on learning to drive in a 3ft long Peugot and never quite adjusting to American cars.
Hmmm…Having said that, I did reverse the Peugot into another car- the day I passed my driving test – so no, its just me. I can’t drive forward or backward without hitting other cars.
I started speeding early in my driving career, in fact, during my driving test. After arriving on American soil at the age of 26, I was told that my British driving license (handily written in Welsh), didn’t count and my 9 years of driving was worthless. i.e. I needed to retake my test.
After reading the US rules for the time it took to stand in line (hmmm.. about 45 minutes), I figured I was ready and hopped in the testers car. On the wrong side.
Needless to say the instructor spent the entire test alternating between holding onto the dashboard and the hand straps, asking me to slow down and at one point, during my right hand turn, he actually let out a yelp.
NOTE: When someone says ‘take the next left’ I take it literally… and executed what I thought was a great handbrake turn into someone’s driveway. Apparently he meant the next left ..on the road. But he did give me points for fast responses.. which is probably how I passed.
I also assured him I was moving to Colorado shortly and wouldn’t drive in Illinois any time soon. His color returned in no time.
I typically don’t drive that fast, but I was once stopped on Highway 6 going 100mph in my V6 Golf . I talked my way out of the ticket by virtue of it being ‘Thanksgiving’ and by providing my Welsh drivers license. No-one wants to deal with charging a foreigner in a language which has no j, k, v, x or z when there is turkey to be had.
I tried that one again when driving out of Aspen at 4am after an awful wedding (not mine) which I wanted to escape (at an extreme speed of 42 mph). Apparently 4am and a Welsh drivers license doesn’t faze Aspen policemen and I clocked up the first of many points for speeding.
I think at one point I had 3 different incidents in one year.. which is when I decided to never drive a fast car again and bought my first truck.
So now I don’t speed, instead I hit things. Six of one…
But this week my insurance agent told me that as a result of my newly sparkling record I would be taken off their high risk list and my insurances would be dropped to less astronomical amounts.
Which, since I insure a truck, a motorcycle and a scooter really gives me a break.
But I couldn’t help but feel like he’d jinxed me. I don’t drive much because I now work at home and with my bicycle, scooter and motorcycle, I prefer two wheels these days. Less distraction and no passengers or music. But somehow I just know that the natural order of things will need to be restored.. its just not natural for my drivers license to not come with warnings attached. People need to know.
So you might want to keep off the roads for a while and park your car off the street if you live in my vicinity. I’m trying to stay away from my car, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.