That’s right. This morning I officially gave up my California license to become a real Oregonian. Let’s overlook the fact that I should, technically speaking, have done this–well, a pretty darn long time ago. (It’s easy to just keep one’s out-of-state license when one doesn’t own a car and one’s job doesn’t require that one’s license be from Oregon, and one’s old state of residence keeps letting one renew by mail. That’s all I’m sayin’.)
We’ll overlook that and just celebrate the fact that I am now officially a holder of a real live Oregon driver’s license.
I’d been led to believe that the knowledge test required here to get your license was going to be difficult, so I’d made it a point in the last two days to actually read the driver’s handbook. I wasn’t particularly excited about doing it, but you know what? Now that I have, I’ve come to the conclusion that people actually should read it. And probably not only the once when they first take the test when they’re 16 (or 15). The handbook is periodically updated to reflect changing laws or infrastructure–shouldn’t our knowledge of it periodically be updated, too?
I’ve been driving for about 13 years of my life. I mean, I don’t really drive in my normal daily life anymore, but I do drive for work and have been known to take the occasional zip car or a friend’s car out of town. I would consider myself a very safe, very considerate driver, and I follow the rules of the road. That being said, there was definitely stuff in that handbook that I didn’t know.
Some of it’s stuff that I’m not sure I need to know, like for how long your license will be revoked if you get a DUII. But some of it was actually kind of interesting, and I think knowing it makes me a more cogent driver. For example, did you know that if you see someone on a horse, say, and they raise their hand, that’s a signal that their horse is spooked and you shouldn’t pass them yet? I didn’t. And maybe that example doesn’t really come up much in normal life, but do you know all the rules about when you can turn right or left on a red light? How about rules about bike boxes? Or that if you’re driving over 60mph at night, you’re essentially driving blind, since your headlights don’t illuminate far enough ahead of you for your speed?
A lot of driving knowledge comes from common sense or from seeing what other people do–but as infrastructure changes (bike boxes, for example, which didn’t exist when many current drivers took their knowledge tests), doesn’t it make sense that we would expect people to keep current too? Not simply by absorbing (or not) the knowledge by osmosis somehow, but by actually reviewing the educational materials that are created to ensure that there’s a shared knowledge base about how to behave?
I’m not sure if I’m calling for regular testing here or what, but it seems kind of silly to me that we assume that once you read whatever version of the driver’s handbook is current when you first get your license, you’ll then forever know all the rules and courtesies about driving. Even if those rules sometimes change. (This also hearkens back to something I wrote over a year ago about licensing and how it’s hard to renew your license here for all the wrong reasons.)
I’m actually kind of glad I read what Oregon currently has to say about what it takes to safely operate a motor vehicle. And I kind of want to know that other people know it, too.