Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A Student Driver's Encounter with Death

When I took driver’s ed, my instructor had some pretty crazy stories (as you can imagine).

Although his students had been in several accidents, none of them were the student’s fault. One of my favorite stories was of a student driving behind an 18 wheeler. They reached a four-way stop and the truck tried to make a right-hand turn. He didn’t have enough room and had no choice but to back up. A line of cars was so close behind the student that he and his instructor had no choice but to lean their seats back and watch the windshield shatter on top of them.

My ultimate favorite story was of a student’s first time on the freeway.

A girl was in the driver’s seat (don’t you dare make jokes about women being bad drivers) with the instructor in shotgun and a boy and a girl, who were complete strangers, observing in the back. The instructors at that school always make their students drive on the freeway at least once, but they don’t tell them that until they’re practically next to the onramp. That way, the student doesn’t have time to freak out.

Their method didn’t help this particular student. When he told her she was about to drive on the freeway, she gripped the steering wheel and her eyes bulged with fear. “I don’t think I can do this,” she said.

“Sure you can. Turn right and get on the onramp.”

Her knuckles and face turned white as she turned.

“I really don’t think I can do this,” she said again.

“All my students drive on the freeway. You’ll be fine.”

Her breath quickened until she was practically gasping. “Please don’t make me do this.”

“Calm down and speed up so you get to 60 mph.”

She was halfway down the ramp when she couldn’t take it anymore. She shouted, “I can’t do this, I can’t do this, I CAN’T DO THIS!” She took her hands off the steering wheel, covered her face, and screamed.

From the rear-view mirror, the instructor saw the two students grab one another and clutch each other’s hands.

He grabbed the steering wheel and tried to keep it straight while the girl continued having an emotional breakdown. As she sobbed into her hands and he tried to keep them from dying, he heard whispering from the back seat:

“Dear Heavenly Father, we ask thee for protection at this time and to bless the driver with the presence of mind to keep us safe…”

“Are you praying?!” he asked.

They got off at the first off-ramp they could. The driver took her hands off her face and the boy and girl in the back relaxed their grip on one another.

The instructor was furious. He would never be bested by a student, so he spun to her and jabbed his finger at the road behind them. “You are going to turn around right now and you’re going to do that again!”

There was an audible gasp from the backseat.

The driver tried to take deep breaths as she turned onto the onramp and the instructor braced himself for another meltdown. In the back, the praying had grown rapid:


“Shut up!” said the instructor. “I can’t hear myself think!”

They drove one mile and got off with no further incident.

The instructor told us the boy and girl in the backseat later got married. I don’t know if that’s true, but if it is, they have a unique story to tell their kids of how they met.


  1. That's a delightful story, and well told. Thanks for sharing it.

  2. When you work this into that comedic novel I'm going to nag you into writing, make sure you're the girl in the back seat.

  3. Dan: You've never seen me drive. I'd be the girl in the front.

  4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  6. That's so terrible. This article made my heart beat so fast while reading. Ugh. I had my first driving lesson yesterday with a driving school in Glenmore Park. I decided to learn on an auto first – just while I build my confidence.

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  8. Reading through this has only added stress..My 3rd attempt tomorrow morning. I am nervous as hell. But I will rather concentrate on calming my nerves and concentrate on relaxing than passing the test.


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