What am I teaching my son (mostly about driving)?

My son is at the age now where he asks reasonable questions; ones that show he has been thinking about the subject a little himself.*

We have been spending a lot of time in the car and he is curious about driving and traffic.  His mom recently got her driver’s licence so the subject is relevant.

Man, driving is a tough thing to explain.  I am not talking about physically driving and maneuvering large vehicles, but the rules and how and when they are ignored.  I’ve driven significant amounts in Canada and Korea.  I would like to think Canadian driving etiquette and behaviors fit some western standard but I don’t know.  Canadians take speed limits as mere suggestions but are scrupulous about obeying stoplights.  We use our turn signals almost every time.  Koreans are similar in their speeding habits but shockingly different in their acceptance of stoplights.  They also use their hazard lights at every opportunity while Canadians have to search out the button when they want to use their hazards.

(Image found here and not from my son.)

There are a lot of great drivers in the family I have married into and also my father was both skilled and knowledgable.   I myself, am only a fair driver.  I think I know my limitations so I can work around them but there are lots of better drivers than I out there.

Anyway, I think I have been, not deliberately, teaching my son that speeding is okay but that stoplights must be obeyed and that speeders might be good people but those who run red lights are jerks (I have forgotten he was in the car a few times and used stronger language).  I think my father would agree but are these my prejudices that I am training into my boy?

Most of the time I see drivers run red lights, they have slowed and clearly seen that the side streets are empty and no pedestrians are around.  Many times I see people running red lights after dawn -so the lighting and visibility are good- but so early that few people would be expected to be around.  I generally persist in thinking these drivers are bad but at the same time I wonder if I have been conditioned into accepting these delays that serve no purpose.

Now, readers who have heard the stats on traffic accidents here -it is a widely accepted assertion that Korea has the highest accident rate of any developed country and I believe it, but I haven’t seen any studies – might want to mention accidents they have seen.  I, too, have seen a few accidents.  One driver, running a red light, was screened from seeing the whole crosswalk by other vehicles and slowly rolled through to hit a bicycle – luckily being walked across and the rider was unharmed.  Running a red light during a busy part of the day on a busy street is freaking stupid.  Even on streets and at times that are usually quiet, running a red light is risky.  Still, treating a red light at as a simple stop sign in those conditions doesn’t seem irrational.  Waiting, as I always do, and always remind my son (who won’t be driving for about ten years or more), is the correct thing to do but also often unnecessary.

Here in Korea, where breaking the law was once seen as a form of revolt against Japanese oppressors or domestic dictators, a long history of law abiding behavior has not formed.  Here, in my room, I can abstractly consider the flexibility of thinking I see in Korean drivers – flexibility missing in other situations.

My grandfather lived long enough that his opinions on race, once mainstream and possibly even liberal, aged into mild unpleasantness.    My son is seven years old while most of my friends my age have teenagers.  I am eager to teach my son to swim and ride a bike and all those other value-neutral things but I am concerned about teaching my prejudices to him.


*When he was younger, I guess he asked reasonable questions as well.  As I recall, he would frequently ask about things that were new and needed to be sorted out in his mind.  When he was four, we were in Canada and discussing a friend’s properties.  The man owns a house and two apartments and was in the process of selling a house.  On one weekend, I was asked perhaps five times, “Ron owns four homes?”  One of these times was immediately after he had woken up, so clearly his sub-conscious had been working on the problem as well.


4 Responses to “What am I teaching my son (mostly about driving)?”

  1. Korean Gender Reader | The Grand Narrative Says:

    […] What am I teaching my son (mostly about driving)? (Surprises […]

  2. badaajoshi Says:

    Korea is different than most countries because terrors such as Cha San-Soon, who took the driver’s license test 949 times before passing (barely), are admired for their sheer determination.

    In my opiinion, she’s a stubborn idiot who shouldn’t be allowed on the road.

  3. surprisesaplenty Says:

    Scientific American has an article on the larger issue I touched upon:

  4. badaajoshi Says:

    Actually, Brian, I was having this conversation with this Brazilian woman here in Curitiba and she said, “When I went to NYC, I put one foot out in the middle of the street to walk across and you know what happened. The cars stopped! Yes, they did! They actually stopped.”

    I guess I need not mention that they do NOT stop here in Brazil. In fact, in Rio, they speed up when they see you crossing the road.

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