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October 17, 2005

Chances are pretty good that you have not seen a well-edited, easy-to-read 120-page book which ought to be required reading for every adult Delawarean. If its contents were properly digested and applied it would significantly eliminate quite a bit of inconvenience, hassle, property damage, injury and even death. Considering that the book is free and readily available in hard copy and on the Internet, there should be considerable demand for it.

Its title: Drivers Manual: First Class Service from the First State

You probably are thinking there's nothing in there that's not fundamental to one of our most pervasive activities. Having driven for many years, those things are supposed to be second nature.

However, go out on the road and drive even a short distance and you'll find considerable evidence that that's not true for a lot of people -- "other people," of course.

How come everyone with whom you raise the topic tells you that they, too, are appalled by the speeding that goes on. No one acknowledges, however, that they're active participants. As Yogi once said, "Nobody goes there any more because it's too crowded."

Conscious violators aside, how much of the disregard for what are fundamentally common-sense rules can be contributed to folks simply not knowing what's expected.

For instance:

Right turns on red are permissible after a full stop, except when prohibited by a posted sign or a steady red arrow is displayed. [page 53]

Delaware law required all occupants of a vehicle to be properly restrained in a seatbelt or child safety seat. [page 62]

A dashed white line between lanes of traffic means that you may cross it to change lanes if it safe to do so. A solid white line between lanes of traffic means that you should stay in your lane ... unless a special situation requires you to change lanes. [page 64]

On a road with two or more lanes traveling in the same direction, stay in the right lane except to pass. [page 66]

You must yield the right of way to any pedestrian within a crosswalk, stopping if necessary. You must not pass a vehicle stopped to allow a pedestrian to cross the highway. [page 73]

Bicyclists ... are subject to the provisions of the vehicle code, just as other drivers are. [page 74]

If you turn on your [windshield] wipers, turn on your headlights; it's the law in Delaware and some other states. [page 93]

Delaware law states that you must signal 300 feet before turning. [page 95] (It is suggested that the signal be activated at least three seconds before the turn. 300 feet @ 60 m.p.h. = 3 seconds Five seconds would be more responsible.)

It would seem logical that the process of obtaining or renewing a driver license should include a requirement that the applicant demonstrate knowledge of these and other rules involving situations routinely encountered on the road. Such demonstration should consist of something more thorough than scoring seven out of 10 on a multiple-choice exerecise like the one which now passes for a Delaware driver license test.

And a little bit of strict enforcement out on the road wouldn't hurt.

CLICK HERE to access the drivers manual on-line. CLICK HERE to access samples of the multi-choice test which is now used.

A couple of recent proposals to change an 1878 law prohibiting the use of active duty armed forces in domestic law-enforcement roles should raise some red flags. While it's hard not to commend the military -- especially National Guard troops -- for the role they played in the aftermath of the Gulf Coast hurricanes, it's important that that situation not establish a precedent.

No less than the President of the United States -- the commander-in-chief -- subsequently advanced the idea of employing the military to enforce quarantine in the event of a flu epidemic. It should not be difficult to come up with a variety of other hypothetical situations where boots in the streets might seem welcome.

One has only to look at a variety of other nations where such response has been and still is an element of domestic national policy. That's not a path the United States should even consider following.

CLICK HERE to access a recent New York Times article on the subject.

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