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Random Thoughts

A Bum Steer

Hudson Cooper
Posted 1/27/22

Being a senior in high school brought you many memorable moments. A senior class trip, having your yearbook picture taken for posterity and finding a date for prom are part of that last year in high …

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Random Thoughts

A Bum Steer


Being a senior in high school brought you many memorable moments. A senior class trip, having your yearbook picture taken for posterity and finding a date for prom are part of that last year in high school. But the moment that most of us looked forward to was taking driver’s education. Driver’s Ed was a rite of passage. It was the first step in getting that holy grail of teenage independence…a driver’s license.

In my high school, each instructor, who for the most part taught shop classes during the day, were responsible for three students in the car. We would take turns driving as he gave us pointers from the passenger seat. He constantly reminded us to hold the steering wheel in the “10 and 2” position. That position was deemed the safest way to steer the car and prepare us for sudden emergencies on the road.

Little did we know that years later the ideal position to hold the steering wheel would be changed to “9 and 3.” Tests results show that the “9 and 3” position on the steering wheel keep your hands out of the way if your airbag deploys.

After getting a passing grade from your instructor it was time to prepare for a road test. There are many obstacles in life that must be overcome to advance. Many pre-med college students will not get to realize their dream after failing the dreaded Organic Chemistry courses. The road test has a series of requirements of varied difficulty. Proper placement of your hands on the wheel, using your directional signals and obeying the speed limit are easy components. Mastering the 3-point turn is a little harder. But the most difficult maneuver is often the deal breaking obstacle…parallel parking.

Parallel parking requires a combination of hand-eye coordination and nerves of steel. It is the portion of the road test that many fail. The examiner from the DMV clears his throat and says, “pull over and parallel park between those vehicles.” As you pull next to the first car, your throat seems to be filled with cotton as you nervously put the car in reverse. If you are successful, it is one of the highlights of your senior year, right up there with getting a date for prom.

Technology has advanced to enable parallel parking to be performed automatically in some car models. A television spot shows how by pushing a button, the car parks itself. It looks easy enough, but if you ever try it in a city like New York you are in for a rude awakening. Parking spaces on the streets are at a premium. Often you will only have clearance of a few inches between your bumpers and the two cars. They are called bumpers because often you must repeatedly bump into the cars to squeeze into a spot.

There is another television commercial which advertises an option on certain cars that is absolutely senseless. As music plays, it shows “dad” driving his family down a highway. Then he pushes a button on the dashboard and takes his hands off the steering wheel! Careening down the highway, dad starts clapping his hands to the music as his family joins in. At some point dad looks ahead and sees a slow-moving car. He pushes another button and the family roadster passes the car without use of the steering wheel. The “9 and 3” grip that is recommended for safety is ignored. This dad can text, do crossword puzzles or watch a movie on his laptop as the car travels to Denny’s for a grand slam breakfast.

Seat belts, airbags and warning alarms are welcomed technologies. But hands-free, self-driving cars are just insane. A bum steer is an expression for a misdirection intended to lead you astray. Relying on a self-driving car is a classic bum steer. Keep your hands on the steering wheel and be safely prepared for whatever lies ahead on the road.


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