November 12, 2009http://detnews.com/article/20091112/OPINION03/911120349Driving school no place for activism
MANNY LOPEZ Student drivers are a bit like potholes -- you go out of your way to avoid them.
But sometimes you just can't. You get stuck behind them as they trudge along trying desperately not to do anything wrong.
We've all been there. Hands at 10-and-two, eyes laser focused on the road ahead and, of course, the radio off, praying that some yahoo doesn't swerve into your path or stop fast in front of you.
All to meet the state's requirements to get that coveted piece of plastic that lets you experience the open road.
Unfortunately, Michigan's Legislature is in session and Reps. Bert Johnson, D-Detroit, and Dan Scripps, D-Leland, think the driving school rules aren't hitting all cylinders.
The duo has introduced a bill that would mandate environmental activism into the curriculum. Students learning to drive would be forced to spend some of their time in class learning about "the importance of carpooling and using public transportation," as well as "identifying the attributes of a fuel-efficient vehicle," and "recycling vehicle parts and fluids," among other secondary lessons that have nothing to do with captaining a two-ton machine down the freeway.
Johnson, for his part, defended the bill, which is fortunately stuck in a House committee right now, when he told The News that "giving them this type of information will help them to make better decisions."
Mandate out of place
It won't and there are so many flaws with this bill it's hard to zero in on just a few. But I'll try.
First, though the state oversees driver's education curriculum, elected officials have no place specifying exactly what should be taught, particularly so-called environmental mandates that have nothing to do with driving. Additionally, since these courses aren't in the schools and parents have to pay for them out of their own pockets, they shouldn't have to pay for someone else's religion -- and trust me, environmental activism is a religion.
Most young people don't have the resources to choose what they get to drive, never mind shop around for one that has the "attributes of a fuel-efficient vehicle." They're just happy to get behind the wheel of a car, any car. And they're certainly not going to pay much, if any attention, to someone telling them to take the bus when their only goal in life at that moment is driving.
And really, young people don't lack resources for hearing about how to be environmentally friendly. They already are and they help teach their parents about conservation. It is not the state's responsibility to mandate this education, and it's particularly out of place given the budget morass they should be addressing instead.
If Johnson and his colleagues really want to make the roads safer for student drivers and the rest of us, they should allocate their time and our resources to ensuring that the potholes on the road get fixed the first time instead of cracking open every year and forcing us to dodge them like we do student drivers.
email@example.com">firstname.lastname@example.org (313) 222-2536 Auto Editor Manny Lopez's column runs Thursday.
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