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post #1 of 11 (permalink) Old 11-22-2012, 07:19 AM Thread Starter
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Learn to drive?

So Iím about to turn 49 and, well, um I donít know how to drive as Iíve been on two wheels 365 since í82. Has anyone here tried to learn about those car thingamabobs later in life? Iím thinking eventually (maybe mid seventies if Iím that lucky) bikes might not be an option and perhaps I should learn now. Any advice?

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post #2 of 11 (permalink) Old 11-22-2012, 09:21 AM
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Wow. When you hid your seventies, just get one of those Cam Am Spider three wheeler thingamabobs. You have gotten this far, don't turn back now....Do you have a wife or kids? I would think that would be a problem (not having a car) if you do.
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post #3 of 11 (permalink) Old 11-22-2012, 10:27 AM
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Well you already have all the road awareness parts covered being a bike rider (and probably even more so!) ; the majority of cars are automatic so just go, stop & steer is all you have to master, although transitioning to even manual transmission, with foot brake & gas co-ordination vs hand, should still be relatively easy.
Same advice I would give a newbie bike rider - find a local school/training operation and enroll in that - you should be well ahead of the complete novice however.
Googling 'driving school Tempe' turned up a bunch of providers
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post #4 of 11 (permalink) Old 11-22-2012, 11:29 AM
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When I was driving a friend's car after not driving a car for two years I found myself clipping the curb on right turns.
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post #5 of 11 (permalink) Old 11-22-2012, 01:25 PM
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As DEcosse suggested, I think you'll have a fairly easy time transitioning to a car given your riding skills.

Just curious, don't you have to have a standard car license prior to getting a bike license? It seems like most states require the bike license to be a supplement to a standard driving license, but it may be it just seems that way since that's how most people do it.

Regardless, the easiest thing would likely be enrolling in a private driver's school. They should get you up to speed pretty quickly. A cheaper option would be to get a buddy you trust to take you out to an empty parking lot and practice. I suspect parking and generally knowing where the corners of the vehicle are will be the hardest thing for you. Given the choice, a smaller car with good visibility would be easier to learn in than an SUV or truck.

Once you've got the basics down, I would HIGHLY suggest doing something more advanced like the Street Survival course.
This is usually put on by the local BMW club (they developed it originally but it's now run nationally by the TireRack) and is targeted at teens but it's equally valid for any driver. 99% of 'driver's training' in the US is about learning the rules of the road and how to park a car. Very little of it is actually about how to drive a car in anything other than perfect conditions. This is a one-day course aimed at helping you learn a little about actually controlling a car, not just randomly pointing it down the road. It will help you be an actual driver, instead of just a passenger who happens to be sitting behind the steering wheel.

And no, you don't need a BMW or any sort of performance car for this. Look at the pics on their website and you'll see minivans, SUVs, etc. Pretty much everything but performance cars.

I would also encourage you to take part in other more advanced driver's training even up to a real driver's school on a track, but that can come later. For now a basic school and/or friend can get you started and something like the street survival course can teach you a little about controlling a car's reactions. That should be enough to make you better than most American drivers.

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post #6 of 11 (permalink) Old 11-23-2012, 12:58 AM Thread Starter
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Yeah it’s that clipping the curb thing that has me concerned as you can imagine I would not be used to thinking about bouncing off things 4 feet to the right of me (or blind spots) I’d like to start with a sand rail, as for school well sure but both people I know who’ve gone through the motorcycle safety classes are now cyborgs… very basic stuff there and no real keep your ass alive evasive maneuvers stuff.( Thanks for the street survival school tip! I will definitely look into this when the time comes.)
My daughter is 22 drives a ug-ah-lee boxy Scion thing (poorly if her insurance bills are any indication) and is scared to death of motorcycles.
I have a class M - motorcycle only – license.
As to the Cam Am Spider things... I admit as I get older my eyes get older, more forgiving if you will but there aint a bottle of tequila big enough ta make those look good, better I should get one of those old school VW trikes all covered in gold flake slathered fiberglass. Thanks for the advice I’ll probably just keep doing what I’m doing till I absolutely have to change but it’s good ta know there are classes out there ta help when it’s needed. (I’m just picturing my grizzled grey father time self in that class of blue eyed 16 year olds)
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post #7 of 11 (permalink) Old 11-24-2012, 05:00 PM
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Watch out for motorcycles! apparantly they're hard to see when you pull out of a side street in a car!
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post #8 of 11 (permalink) Old 11-25-2012, 01:34 AM
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post #9 of 11 (permalink) Old 11-26-2012, 12:11 AM
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Don't do it.......you lose your soul and become boring!!!
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post #10 of 11 (permalink) Old 11-26-2012, 02:35 PM
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What I'd probably do if this were for a local buddy...

I'm going to leave out anything about learning to drive a manual transmission since A-most cars these days are autos and B-you already know how a clutch works and should only need a little time to adjust to using your foot instead of your hand anyway.

Any real driver's training needs to start with some simple stuff. For instance, it seem an amazing number of people today don't seem able to adjust the seat in their car correctly - the correct position would not be reclined to the point where your head is at the level of the steering wheel! You should be close enough to the pedals to fully depress the clutch (if you have one) without using just your toes. The steering wheel should be far enough away that with your shoulders back against the seat your outstretched arm lays across the top of the wheel just at the wrist. Play with the seat/wheel (and maybe pedal) adjustments to find a good fit. And yes, wear your seatbelt. I don't want to sound preachy, but if you're holding onto the wheel to keep yourself in place during an incident, you're not going to have very fine control of the thing are you?

Adjust all three mirrors. You won't be able to get rid of the blind spots entirely, but you should be able to see around yourself quite well in most vehicles. Granted, some are worse than others, so if you have the choice a simple sedan is probably the easiest thing to learn in instead of a coupe or SUV.

About that steering wheel - you've no doubt heard the old '10 and 2' saying. It's still valid, though some recommend 9 and 3 these days, especially with airbags. When you turn, you don't 'shuffle' the wheel, nor do you hold the thing until your arms are twisted up like a pretzel. Or (and this is my favorite) you don't let go with one hand and use the other hand to take an underhanded grip of the top of the wheel to pull it around. It's odd sounding to type it out, but with your hands at 10 and 2 (or 9/3) turn until your 'lower' hand just reaches the 6 o'clock position, then move that hand at 12 and continue turning the wheel, re-positioning your hands as needed. When straightening back out, reverse the technique. It sounds awkward to type, but you'd probably do it naturally anyway.

Before you even start driving, just play with the controls a bit to get used to the feel and where things are.

Now for some driving. Let's head down to an empty parking lot to get the basics. You already know the rules of the road, you just need to adjust to the specifics of driving instead of riding. You'll likely be a little clumsy at first since all the controls are different but I'd bet you smooth out quickly. I'd start by just doing a few start/stop exercises to get a feel for the gas and brakes. Then move to driving in a straight line down the rows of parking spaces, doing a U-turn at the end of the row and heading back down the next row. Do that a few times to get familiar with things.

Then I'd move to pulling into a parking space without touching the painted lines. It may be helpful to set up some sort of make-shift traffic cone on the corners of the space to help you get a feel for where things are since you can't see the ground up-close. You should be able to knock something up easily enough. A few milk-jugs with a little flag sticking out of them would do. Anything that's a couple feet tall and light enough it won't scratch if you hit it.

That should help you get a good feel for where the corners of the car are.

After you get comfortable with that, I'd move to backing into a spot as well.

I'd also look at parallel parking. I'd start by finding a nice long straight painted line and just pulling up next to it. Then advance to actually backing up to it in a traditional parallel parking technique. Again, your home-made traffic cones will help at first. By working against a painted line instead of a curb, you won't have to worry about scuffing wheels if you over-shoot.

A couple hours of this and you should be fairly comfortable with where the corners of the car are and smooth on the controls. At that point I'd head out on some quite streets. All the same techniques apply - the first exercise will be the same as going around a corner on the street; the second would apply to pulling into a drive or entering/exiting a road as well as parking; the third would apply not only to parallel parking but anything that requires you to pull alongside a curb such as going through a drive-thru or a drive-up ATM.

It's really just combining the basic building blocks together to get the more 'advanced' techniques down.

If you do this a couple times over a week or two, I bet you would be comfortable enough to pass your DMV test. Once you have your license, I would then look at the Street Survival course. They teach things like emergency braking, accident avoidance, and skid control - stuff no yellowpages driving school will cover. It's all done at the parking lot level again, but it's much better than what most people ever learn. And heck, it's actually fun if you have the slightest bit of gear-head running through your veins.

If you really want to learn something, then I'd look at your local race track and see what clubs/schools run there. Not to race or even learn to race, but look at their driver's schools. This would give you the chance to have an experienced coach sitting next to you while you drive the car at freeway speeds and learn what things like understeer and oversteer actually feel like instead of just learning about them from a purely theoretical standpoint. You'll likely be driving your own car as well, so it would be 100% applicable to you. Going into a corner on a track a little too hot will teach you sooo much more than reading any book ever will, and will give you a much better chance of saving your bacon should you find that blind corner on your drive to grandma's house was tighter than you expected instead of just blindly stomping the brakes and praying.

I've over-simplified things here - I'm not trying to get into steering or brake technique or anything like that as it's too hard to cover specifics in type. And sad to say, most people out there don't know anything about it anyway and yet they manage to stay alive and pass their test. Of course, those are also the people who roll their SUV because a tire failed, or panic when they hit a puddle in the road and slide into the ditch. But they'll tell you they're 'good' drivers because they never got a speeding ticket...

Looking back at what I've typed here I can't help but recall that once again I'm being a long-winded SOB!

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