Hooniverse Asks – Who Taught You How To Drive?

It may have been a parent, hair graying with every block, or maybe it was your high school gym coach, who whacked you with his clip board every time you strayed the double yellow. Or maybe it was one of those driving school instructors, whose calm demeanor was evidence of a healthy Lude intake. Whomever it was, somebody must have taught you how to drive.
Driving after all isn’t an innate skill, passed down genetically, generation after generation. It’s a learned behavior, one that some people just can’t be taught. Our driver’s education starts somewhere around the age of fourteen, when a license and freedom becomes close enough to be more a practical goal than a conceptual one. For car nuts, that may arrive earlier, and I for one started reading the DMV handbook when I was eleven.
You probably paid almost as close attention in the classroom portion of Driver’s Ed as you did in Health when discussing the chapters on reproduction and human sexuality. Of course no number of film strips demonstrating correct lane position could substitute for practical experience, and movies such as Red Asphalt only made you even more keen to get out there and race a train or attempt some other risky automotive behavior.
After passing the classroom portion, and achieving that oddly uneventful milestone of turning fifteen and a half you took a test and got that piece of tissue-thin paper that separated you as an adult from you as a child- your learner’s permit. After carefully folding it and placing it gingerly in your wallet, your next task at hand was getting your behind the wheel training, and that’s where we come in today.
Maybe the above scenario does not match your own. Perhaps you arrived here from somewhere else, Mars say, and didn’t learn to drive until much later. It could be that you grew up with the farmer in the dell and spent your formative years piloting a tractor down rural route and Dairy Queen drive-thru. Whatever the experience, who was it, there by your side, that provided you with the sage advice and cool direction that has made you the cool operator you are today?
Image sources: [AnitaGale.com, pictureisunrelated.com]

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45 responses to “Hooniverse Asks – Who Taught You How To Drive?”

  1. Peter Tanshanomi Avatar
    Peter Tanshanomi

    <img src="http://wpcontent.answers.com/wikipedia/en/thumb/b/b1/VentureSign.jpg/125px-VentureSign.jpg"&gt;
    Venture Driver Training School.
    No, really. Seriously.

    1. Alff Avatar

      Did it come in a plain black-and-white box labeled simply, "Driver's Education"?

      1. Peter Tanshanomi Avatar
        Peter Tanshanomi

        No, it came in a powder blue '78 Malibu four-door.

  2. engineerd Avatar

    I learned to drive in the demanding world of funland go-kart tracks and arcade games at the tender age of 8.
    Seven years later, I went to a driver training school and went through a few Saturdays of classroom training. I paid rapt attention to every detail, knowing that my inner hoon would soon have an outlet and it needed to be fed all the information it could. A mere six months later I was sitting behind the wheel of a Pontiac LeMans (late '80s version) with an attractive blonde in the passenger seat ready to correct my brake or gas inputs with her redundant set of pedals. It was a blast.
    Once I had fulfilled my instructed driving requirement, it was up to my parents to teach me. My dad was a taskmaster, but he wanted to make sure I was going to be the greatest driver I could. Soon, I was sitting at the DMV taking a written test (100%) and then proving my worth on the open streets of Norco, CA with a middle-aged, balding state employee who probably couldn't wait to clock out so he could head over to the local watering hole. I lost 2 points for not looking over my shoulder during a lane change (even though the street was empty and I had kept track of every car coming up behind me).
    I was free!

  3. Al_Navarro Avatar

    I personally think parents teaching their own kids is a shortcut to lifelong resentments. I took lessons from a guy named Frank LaValva, whose wife worked at my high school. I think he may have been a phys ed teacher at a local public school. His car was equipped with an additional passenger side brake pedal…but not an additional wheel like Taggart cars. Mr. LaValva would just reach out and grab the wheel with his left hand if I needed correction.
    I think he was a pretty good teacher all in all. I still remember his advice on how not to treat the brake pedal like an on-off switch…"Pretend there's an egg between your foot and the pedal.".
    I should also give props to my buddy Scott Barclay for teaching me how to drive stick in his old Tercel.

    1. Alff Avatar

      I agree with your assessment, Al. I once tried to teach my wife to drive stick. For the sake of our young marriage, my sanity and my Alfa's clutch and transmission, we decided that she should always have an auto.

      1. joshuman Avatar

        I taught my wife (then girlfriend) the manual transmission. It took a while and was not without some shouting but she learned. She had to because we only had one car. That was a decade ago and she still drives the manual transmission half the time. I also tried teaching our summer roommate that same year with less than optimal results.

  4. muthalovin Avatar

    The first thing I learned was that my grandma really disliked driving, so it was "OK" for me to cruise her Lincoln around.
    The second thing I learned was that said Lincoln is a boat, and can do pretty decent burnouts from a stop sign.
    The third (and final) thing I learned was that Granny laughs hard when her 11 year old grandson smokes the tires.
    My Meema learnt me some swell drivin'!

    1. Maymar Avatar

      I had a similar experience driving my grandma's Lumina. If she noticed, she was entirely unfazed, probably because it wasn't that far off her own driving. She probably lights the tires up on her scooter.

  5. Alff Avatar

    I'm confused. Is the question "Who makes the best seats for trashing a vehicle?" Gotta be Wreckaro.

  6. bzr Avatar

    My dad taught me in our 1996 Sentra XE with a leaky power steering pump. We went up to the high school parking lot and drove in circles, but I was trying to turn fast enough to scrape the floorboards on the pavement. Later, I learned to drive stick from a girl in my high school who I had an immense puppy-dog crush on and her 1996 Ford Ranger in my other high school's parking lot (yeah, I went to two high schools), which was rutted and torn up like Yugoslavia after NATO stormed through it. And sadly, I didn't get the girl.

  7. Maymar Avatar

    Mostly, it was a combination of my parents and driver's ed teacher (who really seemed to like Nelly's "Hot In Herre" for some reason – it was 2003), along with the minimal book learnin' required to get a driver's license in Ontario. As for learning to drive stick, I had a couple friends show me in high school (in an early 90's Honda Civic and a Pontiac Fiero – one of those is much easier than the other), but it didn't really click until I took the motorcycle training course at a local community college (being forced to rock back and forth on the friction point), and buying my own car with a manual.

  8. Corvette Poncho Avatar
    Corvette Poncho

    I, like most kids my generation, took drivers-ed in high school. During study hall 2 days a week, 2 people had behind the wheel training with the instructor…Mr Fisher. My buddy and I were assigned the same time slot and we had a blast. We caught on and did better than most of the kids in our drivers-ed class. One day I became the first student to "red-line" the drivers-ed car. Later that same lesson, Mr Fisher taught us how to apex curves in the road because according to him "I think you boys might need this later in life". I guess our hoonage was fairly apparent to him!

  9. tonyola Avatar

    Dad mostly, with some help from older brother and driver's ed. The machine I spent most time learning in was a 1968 Mercury Marquis – a huge, powerful two-door with monstrous blind spots you could hide a Peterbilt in. Learning to maneuver a big, softly-sprung boat like that (parallel parking was fun in it) made driving smaller cars seem like a cakewalk.

  10. lilwillie Avatar

    I can't recall when I first got behind the wheel. I know it was a young age. Sitting on my dads lap driving in a corn field.
    I am doing that with my boys now, they both get to drive across the marsh when we go to the farm. I run the pedals and they steer. I take the speeds up from time to time and have a hand ready if something goes wrong. They love it. You can tell they feel "all powerful" behind the wheel.
    So 5….that is when they started. I hope it was when I started. I just can't remember. I do remember at 14 driving the truck across the marsh. Dad and a buddy of his. I was trucking along at about 20mph and hit a huge hole. Battery shot into the fan blade. Dads beer went flying. His buddy dropped his out the window. I hit my head on the steering wheel. Good times….good times.

    1. Al_Navarro Avatar

      I used to let my kids drive in our field sitting on my lap in our A4 wagon. They didn't seem to enjoy it all that much. Also, they know they can drive our Polaris Ranger anytime they want…but never grab the keys.

      1. lilwillie Avatar

        Mine are always nagging to drive the Honda Rancher. My oldest is cautious. I've let him go solo a few times but stuck in a high gear and he is told to putt-putt. My youngest has a touch of the devil in him. He hoons either rig like a mad man. I sure hope he learns body work soon.

  11. Black Steelies Avatar

    A combination of my parents, myself and my highschool shop teacher/ resident driving instructor Mr. Salisbury.
    My small school [+/- 75 per class] offered driver training to students in junior year and up. I took the last driver training class that was still offered in the summer-only. He would regale us with stories of his legendary automotive experience, which was truthfully quite entertaining. They were all filled with the typical accidents and horror stories of beginning to drive, but some were funny too. We would then proceed to watch outdated movies that were made before I was born discussing the wonders of ABS and airbags. We watched the perfunctory lecture about drinking and driving and then had it repeated to us several times.
    We had the test drives too in the school's lilac dodge caravan with a cheese wedge on top. Not as harrowing as any john hughs interpretation would let you think but i did almost hit a deer once. And my first time out drving on the road i didn't even have a permit yet/
    It finally came time to take the test so i took it in as small a town possible at one of the local DMVs. I failed to heed pedestrian traffic and bumped the curb on parallel parking. My mom maintains that i forgot to signal leaving the staging area. Either way the grouchy lady let me pass and i didnt have to suffer the embarrassment of rescheduling.

  12. BGW Avatar

    Unofficially, I learned by tear-assing my grandmother's '79 Caprice all over some dirt and gravel roads at some private property she had out in the middle of nowhere. Sometimes my father was with me; most of the time, not so much.
    Officially, I attended a private driving school that was a Jane Lynch cameo short of a Christopher Guest screenplay. The owner/head instructor was also a youth counselor and frustrated musician; the crowning jewel in his professional portfolio was a professionally recorded cover of "Cocaine" with the lyrics altered to target early '90s youth (and a accompanying music video that made Afterschool Special look like a Scorsese best-of reel). His right-hand man was a pervert who seemed happy to direct his ogle to girls or boys, either way. When he wasn't ogling youths or jumping on the passenger's side brake pedal just to "joke around," he was subjecting us to "social commentary" that at the time was too far over our heads but in retrospect makes me think he was one too-long line at Kroger from taking a hostage.
    But I'm a better driver than about 70% of the population around here, so apparently there's something to be said for psychosis.

    1. Al_Navarro Avatar

      Commenting genius. Could you possibly pack in more references?

      1. BGW Avatar

        Possibly, but I can't afford more royalty checks to Dennis Miller.

  13. Mike_the_Dog Avatar

    My dad taught me the basics on-road, but the most valuable lessons in dynamic stability and car control were learned while flying solo in his '72 Fleetwood Sixty Special on the frozen lake behind the house. Since said lake was about eleven miles long and a mile wide at its widest point and froze to about three feet thick in the winter, it was a relatively safe place to explore what happens when you apply sudden and severe control inputs at high speed on a slippery surface. It was also an excellent place to disprove the oft-repeated saw that it's impossible to do donuts on studded snow tires.

    1. tonyola Avatar

      I thought I was going to get the biggest-land-yacht learner award with a '68 Mercury. A 1972 Fleetwood? On ice? You win.

  14. Froggmann_ Avatar

    The guy that drove this on the weekends:
    <img src="http://i133.photobucket.com/albums/q53/Froggmann/Misc/Hot%20Lick%20Racing/race-car007.jpg&quot; /img>
    Yep my dad. Good thing too, I've avoided many a F'up from many other drivers by being taught to "Go around the rocks".

  15. Tim Odell Avatar
    Tim Odell

    In-class driver's ed taught me next to nothing, but that's what got me a permit at 15 1/2. (Perfect score on the written test, btw).
    Aside from some very brief in-driveway stuff (it was a big driveway), my first real time at the wheel was (as required my CA law) with an official driving school instructor. I believe it was a Hyundai. My dad did all the real teaching though. He's remarkably patient (now a HS Physics/Math teacher) and would just give a steady stream of unemotional commentary. "Yeah, you need to back off this guy a little" "Next time come on the freeway faster" etc etc. Taught me to drive stick, too. That took like 2 hours and I never looked back.
    After that, I spent the next year driving everywhere. If I was in the car, I drove. Mom's Audi, the Suburban, the Suburban with a boat behind it, Jeep, RX-7, whatever. I did a fair bit of "learning" on my own, much to the dismay of the drivetrain on the Jeep or the brakes on the Mazda.

    1. muthalovin Avatar

      Hey, my dad also teaches HS Math!
      I think when I started driving, everything my parents had was a stick, except for the '85 Corvette. It was frustrating to start with, then the smell of melted clutch would drift into the cabin, then I finally "got it." Good times.

    2. Mechanically Inept Avatar

      Your experience is pretty much the same as mine. Before starting driver's ed at 15 1/2, I drove my dad's Mazda in a parking lot once, and once I had my permit, I drove everything. I was very keen to drive a stick, so I learned that after about two weeks of having my permit. The first manual transmission car I drove was my uncle's Triumph TR6, and once he became concerned for his clutch, we moved onto my mom's Fit. After a few days, and no burning clutch smell, I was proficient with a stick. I have yet to learn to hell-toe, though; that's next on the agenda.

  16. SSurfer321 Avatar

    Sylvania Driving School. Laurel was my attractive blonde instructor. I was best in class, the only one allowed to drive with the radio on (at an ultra-low volume).
    Last day of class. Laurel instructs me to drive behind the school (where classroom was located) and park the car. I guide the Geo Prizm between the lines and stop an inch short of parking block. Perfect. "Now back out" she instructs. I check over my shoulder, engage reverse and slowly lift off the brake. Once I begin turning around, she corrects me. "Reverse all the way around the school." I re-align the car with the driving lane and begin to reverse around the school. I began to accelerate, keeping one eye on the instructor and one on the approaching corner. When I see Laurel reach for her brake pedal, I stab the go pedal and yank the wheel.
    I successfully completed my first (of many) J-turn while in driver's ed.

  17. CaptainZeroCool Avatar

    My mother let me operate the steering wheel from her lap from about age 6 until I was about 9 or 10.
    My grandfather would let me move his 64 C10 around the yard (3 on the tree). At 11 or 12 years old.
    At 15 I taught myself how to drive stick in my grandfathers 1974 VW Beetle.
    At 16 he (Granddad) gave me my first car, but I still continued to drive the beetle for the next year until he sold it.

  18. Smells_Homeless Avatar

    My pops gave me one lesson, which mostly consisted of me driving a Vista Cruiser around a parking lot while he tried to keep his eyes closed and counted long breaths. Then it was the 6-week course in high school. The only summer class anyone looked forward to. We had 4 kids and Mr. Gambrel packed in a metallic tan Celebrity Eurosport. The best part was that Mr. Gambrel had a cool radio game which consisted of whoever could name the song or the band that was currently on the radio got to choose the station for the next song. I was very good at that game.

  19. P161911 Avatar

    My parents taught me when I was 15. Dad taught me to drive a manual transmission when I was 25 after I bought a car with a manual, 92 T-Bird S/C.
    My wife currently works for a driving school (driver's ed kind, not the Skip Barber kind). It was laughably easy to get certified by the state to teach driver's ed. The guy she works for has a couple of Toyota Yaris that have a bolt on passenger side brake pedal that works with a cable and pulley arrangement. I don't think this setup would work in a car with a center hump. The Yaris is actually pretty good for driver's ed, center mounted gauge cluster so the instructor can watch the speed and small enough that you can easily grab the wheel from the passenger's seat. I've gotten to ride in the car a couple of times when she is taking it back to the office. I manage to drive my wife nuts in very short order with a brake pedal on my side!

  20. rovingardener Avatar

    Watched my dad. He drove a fire engine for the City of Detroit. That and watching people drive oval track cars. Plopped down in a seat and applied everything I learned. I've driven professionally for 15 years.

  21. Robai Avatar

    I had to teach myself. My parents wouldn't let me drive their car (insurance – sure…). Mind you I was an a+ student and was not in any trouble. I just had weird parents, so I bought a 1976 Pontiac Grand Prix (with a 400) for $300 bucks. I learned how to drive it by taking it to driver's ed in the next town.
    Oh, and I learned to drive a stick at the John Deer dealership where I worked. They handed me the keys to an old GMC with a stick and said – well go take it for a drive, that's how you learn.
    I LOVE to drive – even now at 42 years young, it is still just as fun as it ever was!

  22. longrooffan Avatar

    I was eleven, my little brother was ten, and we lived on a big farm in the midwest. We learned how to drive in a 3/4 ton Dodge Pickup with a four speed around the fields of that farm while hauling bales of hay to the barn for wintertime feeding. That and a mile long gravel driveway taught us about adhesion and the lack there of. The first automatic I drove was when I was 17 and dad bought a brand new 1976 Plymouth Gran Fury Sport Suburban wagon with a 440 in it. Gas guzzler to the max but it sure was fun to hoon around in with my little bro.

  23. Josh Avatar

    My dad was a delivery driver for FedEx for 28 years. Once I learned how to drive the "John Smith System" from him my grand father put me in his buick regal and said "let me show you how to really drive". Thats when I learned the 2 pedal method and how to drift from a 72 year old man. I asked him, "pappaw how did you learn to drive like that?" he replied "runnin shine."

  24. Car_Nutt Avatar

    My father taught me how to drive in his '88 Reliant K wagon. Nice car. Nearly dinged it but since I couldn't get into any driver education classes, I had to learn somehow. I don't know how my father was able to keep himself from pulling out his hair.

  25. RSDeuce Avatar

    I put my Stepdad's '56 Jeep (4-Barrel 350 with flowmasters, backed by a Muncie 4 speed out of a Camaro) into a bunch of bushes and trees somewhere around 12 or so. It was only later that he added power steering. The throttle on that thing still scares me. He has it strung so tight that 1/16 of travel = Smoky Burnouts or Stupid Fast or Dead Engine (pick your favorite flavor!) Tons of fun, but tough since I wasn't really strong enough to control it at that age. He laughed.
    My Mom used to take me out in the desert to drive her truck ('87 GMC S-15) and generally take me to task on all the fun I tried to have. She did do an excellent job in teaching me how to handle a manual tranny on very steep hills. She wouldn't let us leave until I climbed some stupid uphill grades without rolling backwards at all.
    Learner's Permit, more from Mom… And here I am today!
    It did take 3 tries to get my freaking license though. First one was my bad, I turned from a one way (in the closest left hand lane) onto another one way and didn't stay in my lane (moved to the middle one) twice. This was a fail. The second was crap. I won't go into the details, but in the end both my mother and I chastised the dumb woman for giving driving tests when she clearly had no clue how a manual transmission works and should be driven.
    Third try was easy! (Right?)

  26. Idiot_King Avatar

    Age 14, hooning repossessed vehicles around an impound lot for $7/hr. I got to drive all manner of domestic and foreign econoboxes, Porsches, Mercedes, a Lotus, and a Delorean. I learned how to parallel park in a Cadillac Seville, how to hotwire most American crapboxes of the 80's, how to pick door locks, how to push-start, how to rig cars for towing, and where to find the ignition key in a SAAB.
    My Dad owned the business, and no, it's nothing like the movie in real life.

    1. Mechanically Inept Avatar

      That's awesome. Sounds like the greatest job ever.

  27. coupeZ600 Avatar

    I always tell people (and prospective employers) that I've been driving a Truck since I was thirteen. I don't always tell the story.
    My family owned a trucking company, and Dad made all us kids learn to drive in a Truck, his theory being that if you learned in something big, loud, ponderous, ill-handling, and difficult to stop, he could turn you loose in a car and it would be easy.
    We had a '59 Mack H-61 (the Cab-Over cousin of the venerable B-61), and it was all that and a whole lot more. It had by the time I was 13 been mostly retired, relegated to yard-spotting and shuttling trailers around the industrial neighborhood where the terminal was on the weekends,
    On one of these weekends, Dad looked over at me and said, "One of these days I'm going to teach you how to drive."
    "But Dad, I already know how to drive" I said.
    "Who (many expletives deleted) taught you how to drive?", he asked sternly. My Dad was, and is, always stern, (my wife calls him, "The Grumpiest Man in the World") and lying was about the greatest sin in his world.
    "You did,… I've been watching….."
    "You think you can drive this…." he barked.
    "Yes Sir…" We were bob-tailing back after dropping a trailer in an industrial zone on a weekend and no real heavy-truck traffic and certainly no pedestrians or parked cars around, so my Dad decided to let me give it a try. He moved the seat as far forward as it would go, and we traded places.
    I got in the driver's seat and still had to sit on the very front of it to get it going, but once we got moving I started shifting that Mack Du-Plex (a 5&4) without the clutch like nobody's business, my Dad looked over at me and positively beamed. We got up to about 25mph and approached a RR siding crossing on this dirt road we were on, and my Dad calmly told me to slow down.
    "Slow… Slow.. SLOW THE (many expletives deleted) DOWN!
    I realized then I had only watched him "go", and every time he stopped I was looking out the windshield at what was causing this "stopping".
    "How! " I screamed.
    "The Brake, the one in the middle!"
    I pushed on the "one in the middle" with all my might right as we hit the RR crossing. I was thrown straight up into the steering-wheel, and Dad went straight into the roof.
    I killed the reluctant motor as I pulled over into the bar-ditch still in gear, the Mack straining against both my feet on the brake. Dad gets out and walks around to the drivers door, yanks me out, throws me into the road and jumps in and just before he drives off yells, "You'll never amount to nothin'!"
    3 million miles without a ticket or an accident later, he claims I was the best driver he ever had……

  28. joshuman Avatar

    Like many of you, I learned via a combination of high school instruction, parents, and grandparents. Grandpa was the first one to tell me to punch it in a V8 Suburban. Until then I had only driven Subarus and the driver's ed car. One of the most important lessons came one snowy morning when my dad took me down to an empty parking lot and smiled a lot as I tossed his FWD car around. We popped it into 4WD and smiled some more.

  29. dukeisduke Avatar

    My driver training consisted of:
    1) Watching gory accident films like Ohio's infamous "Signal 27" in the high school auditorium;
    2) Written tests
    3) A week in the simulator trailer, which contained about a dozen late '60s Dodge simluators, along with projected films at the front of the trailer;
    4) A week of behind-the-wheel in a then-new Datsun B210 4-door automatic, with a school district employee riding shotgun.

  30. Scott Avatar

    My dad taught me how to drive a car but I taught myself how to drive stick as his instructions on doing so sucked, which was surprising as he is avery good highschool teacher. He taught me all the basics on my "mom's" BMW E30 (he had bought it for her, its now his daily as she never drove it) But I taught myself stick on my first car- An Austin America but it had the powertrain out of an earlier Morris 1100, so I had no synco on first. It was great, I had read up on doing so before actually doing it, I jackrabbitted it once or twice, but then got the hang of it. Although I failed my test in it because my instructor was an imbecile who didn't know a) What syncromesh was b) How to drive a manual as he took out a book before we started that told him what to look for, and he failed me because I didn't gear down to first when coming to a stop, as I knew it would grind the gears. I later took the test in the E30 and passed without issue.

  31. Hopman Avatar

    For me, it was a combonation of three people:
    First of all was my driving school instructor. She had a real passion for teaching driver's ed. The car wasn't bad either. a '98 Nissan Maxima. I figured out the hard way that the car had real good brakes. In fact, I actully shocked my techer one day. Somebody was backing out of a driveway, and me not knowing if they had seen my car, jumped on the binders like a gator on a chicken.
    The second person was my dad. He's a man who's driven everything from SAAB's to dump trucks. In fact, I still turn to him for tops and tricks.
    The third person who taught me to drive a semi and helped me earn my CDL was a gentelman named Jesse Hainer who I met trhough a trucking company. This guy was an "old-skool" trucker who taught me many of the old ways of driving a truck. Heck, he even taught me how to drive a stick on a 10-speed Freightliner!

  32. Ames Siding Company Avatar

    Excellent job.