JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - If you had to retake your driver's exam, could you pass? How long has it been since you tested your skills behind the wheel and on paper?
According to Kars4Kids.org, Arkansas ranks 48 out of 50 when it comes to having courteous drivers.
With that being said, we can probably all remember a time when we yelled at the driver in front of us for not putting their best foot forward.
It's been ten years since I took the driver's test to get my license.
Thanks to Trooper First Class Dustin Morgan and Coach Tim Hawkins, I tested my driving knowledge, and it didn't go quite like I anticipated.
Trooper Morgan has been with Arkansas State Police for seven years.
He sees it all on roads across Region 8 and joined me behind the wheel to see how I drive.
With checklist in hand, Trooper Morgan had me check my lights, blinkers, mirrors, and horn.
Then we drove around Jonesboro. Right turns here, left turns there, Trooper Morgan said I seemed like I was being overly cautious.
I couldn't help but be honest with him. When you are in the car with a state trooper, you don't speed.
He agreed that was a smart move but not so smart were the drivers we saw on the road.
From the passenger seat, he pointed out a driver turning into the wrong lane.
Another didn't use a signal when making a lane change, and we even spotted someone texting while driving.
Trooper Morgan said all of these things are against the law and things we do when we aren't paying attention behind the wheel.
"We get comfortable," Morgan said. "We get apathetic. We get our minds on where we have to go and what we have to do, and we are concentrating less on our driving skills."
As for my skills, I passed.
But I did do one thing that was very unsatisfactory to Trooper Morgan and could get me a ticket.
Out of habit, one I've had for years, I put the shoulder belt of my seat belt behind my back.
I didn't even realize I did it until my photographer asked me if I had my seatbelt on.
"That's probably bad isn't it," I asked Trooper Morgan.
He confirmed wearing the shoulder belt under your arm or behind your back is an improper use of a seat belt.
"The shoulder belt is what harnesses you in, in the case of a collision, so if you take the shoulder belt out of play essentially you have a lap belt," Morgan said.
He said there are many people, myself included, who don't realize this is a requirement by law.
But I know now, and I have tried every day since our driving test to wear my seatbelt correctly.
To get a taste of the written exam of the driver's test, I visited Coach Tim Hawkins at Valley View High School.
Coach Hawkins has taught drivers education for the last five years.
They use a program called Drive Right. It doesn't match ASP's written exam perfectly but tests the same knowledge.
Knowledge, Coach Hawkins said, most drivers don't remember.
"I don't think they are going to know the terminology," Hawkins said.
Coach Hawkins gave me a test his students would take after reviewing a chapter.
It was chapter 6's skills and application test.
Matching, fill in the blank, true and false, and use the picture were all part of the 3-page exam.
There were several terms I'd never heard of including reference point, push-pull steering, and hand-over-hand steering.
The exam asked me to use the picture to indicate front wheel position when parking on a hill or curb.
Coach Hawkins understood why I didn't do well with those questions.
"Growing up in Weiner you wouldn't have to," Hawkins said.
Thanks to that, I got a 69, but Coach Hawkins said he thinks some of his student's parents would be in the same boat.
"I think the parents would have a hard time with it," Hawkins said. "I think that's probably, some of the parents go you're making a B in drivers ed, what's up with that, you should have an A. Well, you know, you actually have to get into the material just like you do anything else."
Material I didn't review at all before visiting Valley View.
Even with my lack of knowledge, I still drive every day like most people.
Coach Hawkins agreed with Trooper Morgan in that we are too comfortable behind the wheel.
"We're thinking about the test that we've got, thinking about our job, thinking about in my case the basketball game or whatever the case may be," Hawkins said. "We're not really realizing, hey we have a responsibility."
A responsibility he said he takes seriously when molding young drivers.
"It's getting them comfortable, getting them familiar with how to handle the vehicle," Hawkins said.
A responsibility we all have when we leave our driveways every day, because as Trooper Morgan put it, "It's life and death."
For more information on Arkansas State Police's driver's exam click here.
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