To my daughter, on driving

1. You’re not just responsible for yourself anymore

The road is full of idiots. When most people jump behind the wheel of a car, the actual driving process is the third or fourth most important priority for them, when it should be the first. So instead of being responsible for only your actions, you must be responsible for the actions of those in front of you, behind you, and beside you. People will surprise you, not only by making bad decisions, but by making the occasional good decision as well, and you must be prepared to deal with both. Always be aware of your surroundings, and be ready to take defensive measures when necessary, but don’t let that preparedness take away from the joy of driving. The road is long, after all, and should be enjoyed as much as possible.

2. Know when to be aggressive…and know when to hold back

When I was a younger man behind the wheel, I was all gas and no brakes. I believe the youths today call it full send. It didn’t matter the situation, on the road of course, I was going in full speed, not worried about the consequences of that speed. It was reckless. There are times, however, where speed is necessary. Flitting into the gap safely and quickly, can sometimes help you avoid trouble later on down the road. Other times, a judicious application of the brakes and a little bit of patience will save not only you trouble, but those around you as well. You never know what kind of day someone is having, and you never know how some will react to your aggression. Finding the right balance takes time and experience…so don’t rush to find all the answers immediately. Let them come to you.

3. Test the limits of your vehicle…safely

A good driver knows their vehicle. They know how quickly it can stop, they know how many lateral Gs can be had before the traction gives, and they know exactly how long of a pause there will be between mashing the gas and the car responding. It is your responsibility to find this out about your vehicle. If you test these boundaries safely, you will be rewarded in times of crisis when there isn’t time to think, only react. I encourage you to safely explore the limits of each new vehicle you acquire, but you should never risk your life to do it.

4. Overcorrection can be costly

It has happened to every driver. You’re driving along, you get distracted, and all the sudden your wheels have dipped off the side of the road, and your journey is no longer smooth, it’s rough. It’s terrifying. You’re no longer where you planned to be, and the temptation to yank the wheel in the opposite direction is strong. In a panic, that’s what you do. Suddenly the wheels find purchase, and you’re careening the other direction, and a whole new set of problems has emerged. All you were trying to do was correct your mistake, and you overcorrected instead. When your wheels drop off the shoulder and your ride is rough, don’t give in to the temptation of overcorrection. Move slowly and deliberately. Apply the brakes, and gradually get your wheels back on the pavement. Your car will thank you.

5. You can always call Dad

Yes, you will learn how to change a tire. You will know how to check the oil, the windshield wiper fluid, and the brake fluid. You will be given all the knowledge, of your car of course, your old man can give you, but listen…you can always call me when you need help. I will never say, “I taught you how to do this, do it.” I will drop whatever I’m doing and I will come to you, I will help you, and I will do everything I can to make your trip better. You are, after all, my baby girl, and your vehicle health is very important to me. It doesn’t matter how far the road takes you, I’ll be there as soon as I can, and if I can’t fix it I’ll find someone who can. It doesn’t matter if you executed a handbrake turn poorly or if you drove over a nail and now you are mildly inconvenienced with a flat tire. Dad will be there.

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Travis Sloat

Travis Sloat

Husband to Alicia and father to four kids: three imports and one domestic. English teacher, writer, hunter, and fisherman. I love Jesus, but I cuss a little.