Myths and Legends of Driving

Part II

Parallel Parking is on the Driving Test

Imagine the looks on the faces of those people sitting on the ledge

Parallel parking hasn’t been a requirement on the Virginia driving test since the late 1970’s. We get a ton of calls from people worried that they won’t pass the DMV Road test because they never learned to parallel park. They are stunned when we tell them that it’s not a requirement.

The Virginia DMV Road Test consists of backing out of a parking spot, driving around the block. Usually making a right and left turn and then returning to the DMV and safely parking in a designated spot. That’s it. There is nothing too complicated. I’m fairly confident that at least one scientist is fairly confident that a monkey could be trained to pass the driving test; and not even one of those super smart monkeys that knows sign language.

Driving Barefoot is Illegal

No one can see your pedicure in the floorboard, just an FYI

This is a myth. You can drive in whatever shoes, or lack thereof, that you want. The DMV and the Commonwealth do try to discourage this practice as it’s somewhat easier for your foot to slip off the pedal without a shoe; but it’s completely legal. However, please note that when taking the road test at DMV, you are required to wear shoes. Even flip flops or sandals are not allowed for a road test. Sorry, you’ll have to wait to show off your new pair of Birkenstocks.

We aren’t suggesting that you take off your shoes and socks to give it a go, however, ladies know that driving in clogs is really hard. In many cases, it may be safer to remove the 5 inch stilettos before driving. It’s hard to stay mentally alert when you’re battling with a shoe that’s two sizes too small and cutting into the back of your heel. Either way, not wearing the shoes won’t get you a ticket.

Sandbags In the Back Will Increase Traction

This guy is totally ready to accomplish nothing.

Do you know what a rear wheel drive car is? They’re usually cars with very big engines that can go very fast but don’t do much of anything else. If you’re pretending to be Vin Diesel in Fast and the Furious 189 (Seriously, there are too many of those movies) you may actually be able to increase your traction with sandbags.

The large majority of cars driven on the road today are either front wheel drive or all wheel drive *SHOUT OUT TO THE SUBARU CROWD*. This means that the rear wheels are not the main force that’s keeping traction with the ground or propelling the car forward. It’s a myth because that used to be the way cars functioned. We’ve learned a few things since we stopped producing those cool muscle cars from the 1970’s. Cars are safer and tend to perform better if the front wheel, or all four wheels, keep traction and work together to move you forward. If, as is most likely the case, you are stuck in traffic on I-66, it’s not going to matter which wheels are controlling the car because you aren’t going anywhere; but you can idle assured that you’re much safer in your Mom’s sedan than in anything Vin Diesel is driving.

Your Mom’s sedan will also gain precisely NOTHING from sandbags in the trunk. If you can fit them in the passenger seat you might be able to get away with using the HOV Lane. Don’t actually do that though, an HOV violation gets you 3 demerit points.

I’ll Just Go Around the Funeral Procession

This is one of those times when you have to make time.

Yes, you really do have to stop for a funeral procession. It isn’t a suggestion either, it’s the law in Virginia and most other states as well. Here in the Commonwealth, you can earn yourself a whopping 4 demerit points for going through, disrupting or joining a funeral procession.

We’ve all thought about it, because it seems like the only time someone ever decides to hold a funeral is precisely when we are on the road in a terrible hurry. In the immortal words of Buford T. Justice, “You can think about it, but don’t do it.”

According to the law, you have to yield right of way to a funeral procession. The correct thing to do is sit and wait for it to go by, hoping that the deceased wasn’t very popular.

Not Wearing a Seat Belt is just a Secondary Offense

A cop can write you as many tickets as you’re thought to deserve. There is no upper limit.

Many people think that a police officer can give you a ticket for not wearing a seat belt, ONLY if you were pulled over for something else first (Ex: speeding, failure to stop, etc.). That means it would be a secondary offense. Yes, this used to be the case some years ago in Virginia. However, that has changed.

Nowadays, you can get pulled over and issued a ticket for not wearing a seat belt as a sole or PRIMARY offense. Meaning you could do nothing else wrong and get a ticket just for not buckling up! Imagine driving along the road and obeying all the traffic laws, following every traffic sign, not speeding, not texting, being courteous to other drivers like a true angel, etc.. but then you get pulled over and the officer says, “Hey stupid, snap out of your fantasy! Why aren’t you wearing your seat belt?” You try to argue back, “But Officer, I was doing everything else right…” We can just stop right there. Good luck winning that argument. It’s the law, it can save your life, be smart and buckle up!

Myths & Legends of Driving

Part I

1. SLOWER IS SAFER

You are not driving Miss Daisy and Morgan Freeman is so much cooler than you

Yeah, it’s actually not safer to go slower. Virginia has this thing called impeding traffic and it’s actually a moving violation. Aside from dirty looks, honking horns and middle fingers from your fellow commuters, you can also earn yourself 3 demerit points if an officer sees you moving at a snail’s pace. If you think about it, for more than two seconds, you realize that going 45 mph on the Beltway is a danger to you because the guy going the speed limit can’t stop as quickly and won’t be inclined to do you any favors. He’s going to slam into you and it’s probably going to suck because:

Mass x Velocity = Momentum 

That science talk means that it’s going to hurt really bad when the car that hits you is going 65 mph. Plus, you’re going to cause congestion. The Washington suburbanites know traffic well and we all hate it. If you’re causing it, we hate you too.

2. ALWAYS STOP FOR A SCHOOL BUS

An infographic is so much easier than reading actual words

If you always stop for a school bus, you’re wrong and you should knock it off. If there’s a median; grass, concrete, a pretty flower bed or any other raised structure marking the middle of the road, you are NOT supposed to stop. In fact, if there’s a median, the school bus has to go to the other side of the road to drop those kids off. You’re erroneously blocking traffic because news reports have frightened you.

Yes, there is a problem with idiots not stopping for school buses on their side of the road. There is also a problem with other idiots stopping when they aren’t supposed to. Don’t be an idiot.

3. YOU MUST TAKE DRIVERS EDUCATION BEFORE YOU GET A LEARNER’S PERMIT

Sonia Garfinkel took Drivers Education after she got her Learners Permit. The unfortunate surname could not be helped.

The only thing you need to get a Learner’s Permit in the Commonwealth is to be 15 and 1/2 years old. You’re probably going to also need the DMV Driver’s Manual because the test is based on that. You can pick one of those up at any DMV. We will give you one for free too. Oh look, a free PDF of the Manual. Enjoy it.

Sometimes, even teachers lie to you. Remember that time they told you that Columbus was trying to prove that the world was round in 1492? The globe was invented in 1491. Just an FYI.

Schools want you to take Driver’s Education with them and they will tell you that you have to take Driver’s Education before you get the Learner’s Permit. This seems reasonable, because surely you’d have to take some sort of a class before you take a test at the DMV. Only silly people think that government agencies are reasonable. We northern Virginians work for the government, we know better.

4. YOU HAVE TO HEAT UP THE CAR IN THE WINTER

This human started the car and immediately drove away in the snow! AMAZING!

Do you remember 1975? Yeah, me neither, mostly because I wasn’t born yet and most likely you weren’t either. Back in the olden days, when people rode their brontosauruses to work, they had to go out early and start up the dinosaur so that it had time to get its engine warmed up before it was driven.

In modern vehicles, this is not the case. You get in the car, you turn it on and it’s ready to go. Cars no longer rely on the engine for internal heating either. There’s a separate system for air and heating in your vehicle’s cabin. If your dad is still insisting that you have to let the car get warmed up, tell him that he’s wrong because it’s 2020, and get him to shave off those sideburns too. Yes, we are judging him and he deserves to know.

5. HOLDING THE WHEEL AT 9 O’CLOCK & 3 O’CLOCK IS BEST

Holding this wheel at 9 and 3 will cause you to raise the volume and skip a track

Wrong again. In fact, most steering wheels are designed to prevent you from holding them at 9 o’clock and 3 o’clock. That giant bar in the middle of your steering wheel, usually with a bunch of buttons on it, is preventing you from holding the wheel and 9 and 3. It’s also holding a potentially life-saving airbag but we’ll get to that in a moment. Back in the 1990’s instructors started saying that students should hold the wheel at 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock. If this is how you’re comfortable driving, it is still safe to drive in this position but technology and a better understanding of human physiology (yay for science!) means we’ve upgraded.

Now, best practice is to hold the wheel at 8 o’clock and 4 o’clock. There is actually some method to this madness. If you’re in a collision and you’re holding the steering wheel at the bottom, you’re less likely to smack yourself in the face when the airbag deploys. There are horror stories of airbags deploying, forcing the drivers hands into their own faces at great speed, breaking their eyeglasses or sunglasses into their eyeballs and blinding them forever. Yeah, that has actually happened, more than once.

The 8 and 4 position also prevents your arms from crossing over while turning, which in turn prevents you from actually locking your own arms up. You are not a contortionist and should not use the driver’s seat as a place to practice contorting. And if you are a contortionist, you probably need to be at an audition for Cirque Du Soleil, so drive safely.

6. HANDS FREE IS SAFE

This guy is MacGyver’s cousin

There are statistics on how many people get dead because they were using a cell phone to text, talk or generally be distracted while they were supposed to be driving. Those statistics are sad and full of numbers, so we can just assume that you’ve seen them already. Everyone in the world has been saying that you shouldn’t use a phone while driving for so long that it’s led directly to one dumb statement: It’s only safe to use hands free devices while you’re driving.

No, it isn’t. Even having a phone conversation while driving is dangerous. In Washington, DC it’s actually an illegal moving violation to be on any cellular device while driving, that includes hands-free. In Virginia, it is prohibited to use a hands free device in a work-zone. You know, those annoying spots of traffic with all the orange signs, yeah there are loads of things you can’t do in those zones that are normally okay things to do. Seriously, Google it.

If you’ve got an emergency and have to use your cellphone, just pull over. Seriously, there’s a Starbucks every 25 feet in the DC Suburbs and they don’t mind if you use their parking lot. My guess is that text from your buddy about the latest Skins game (protip: it was terrible and the Skins lost) is not that important, but if you’re really itching to feel terrible about the home team, pull over first.