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Commuting With Captain Kirk

December 6, 2016

Captain Kirk is a bad driver. I don’t mean that he runs the USS Enterprise into planets, or tries to warp through a star or anything. Although, he does manage to get the Enterprise destroyed in nearly every film. But, I’m just convinced that when he gets into a motorized vehicle that he’s a terrible driver. In the Star Trek movie that came out in 2009, we even see a young James Kirk destroy a classic Chevy Corvette by driving it off a cliff. Of course, young Kirk leaps out at the last moment and survives the experience. That is not a good driver. That is a terrible driver.

Brigham Young, was the first governor of Utah, and the second leader of the Mormon church. There’s a folklore story told here in Utah about Brother Brigham trying to hire a wagon driver. He interviews three potential candidates.

I want you to take this wagon and drive it up the windy road into Cottonwood Canyon. The one who drives it the best will get the job.

The first driver, anxious to display his handling skills, drives with the wagon wheels only a few inches from the edge of the cliff.

The second driver, determined to rise to the challenges, puts the wagon wheels even closer to the edge, and actually sends dirt and rock off the edge to fall to the canyon floor below.

The third driver goes to take his turn. He puts his wagon as far from the edge as possible and hugs the inner wall.

Brother Brigham hired the third driver.

A recent report by QuoteWizard, a website that compares auto insurance concluded that “Utah’s drivers are the worst in the nation.” We are second-worst in the accidents and speeding categories. We are fourth-worst for minor citations. We are even in the top 10 for DUI citations. No mean feat for a state where half the population has taken a temperance pledge.

I drive with these terrible drivers everyday. (I’m probably one of them, although I don’t like to think so.) And here’s the crazy part. Those drivers, the terrible ones, don’t know it.

This morning during my commute traffic was moderate. I was coming in for a 7:00am product launch, so it was about 6:00am when I left home. The roads are bare and dry although it’s still dark at that hour. We were all happily driving along at about 78 mph. (Behind the state patrolman, also driving along at 78 mph.) Eventually the state trooper turned and speeds picked up. The speed limit is 70mph. When suddenly a car doing about 90 starts to weave through traffic. First he’s in the outside lane, then he darts over two lanes just sliding in front of a pickup truck. Then, it’s inside to the fast lane and then back across traffic to the outside lane.

Here’s a question: Was he a good driver or a bad driver?

All of us who had to keep from hitting him would say he is definitely a bad driver. But, think about it from his perspective.

I’m an awesome driver!

How can you say that? You were weaving through traffic.

Of course. But, it takes someone with great driving skills to be able to drive like that and not cause an accident.

He’s the wagon driver skirting the edge of the cliff. He’s Captain Kirk, who does everything wrong and still manages to complete the mission, save the day, get the girl (in the original series) and jump out of a Corvette that is plunging to it’s death.

The bad drivers think they are good drivers for exactly the same reasons the rest of us think of them as bad drivers. It’s the ultimate case of “the ends justifying the means.” The worse they drive and survive, the more convinced they are of their own prowess. And even when they do ultimately end up crashing, they will be convinced that “had that minivan not pulled out in front of me, I would have been just fine.”

The next time you are feeling like Tony Stewart, or Mario Andretti, or Captain Kirk, remember that lack of failure is not an indication of competence. Roll the dice enough times and eventually they will come up snake-eyes.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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(c) 2016 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

  1. Absolutely!
    I started racing motorcycles in 1980 because I knew I wasn’t a great driver – well, and to find out how fast my new bike would go. The skills to avoid an accident aren’t easy acquire but this seemed like a reasonable route to proficiency.
    It really did work; I learned the skills to handle vehicles on the edge, how to FIND that edge even in an emergency, and most important discretion. HAVING the skills does not mean using them daily, and I realized but the end of my first year that public roads are dull by comparison.

    I raced for about 30 years with some success. I’m no Andretti, just a good club racer, and watching the yahoos who imagine themselves to be racers really don’t get it. I would like to invite them to go to the nearest race track and see what it’s really like. They may be really good, they may get schooled, but they won’t be endangering everyone else just getting to the grocery store.

  2. I taught my oldest two kids to drive by finding the snowiest, icy-est, worst parking lot or deserted road I could find and then making them drive a manual transmission, real wheel drive truck with a stiff clutch. They slid all over, but they weren’t in danger of hitting anyone. And they learned to correct in a slide. (Steer into the slide? But, the ditch is that direction!)

    When they got into a small car with front wheel drive on dry pavement they were much more comfortable, and safer.

    Love the motorcycle story. I road as a kid, but never got to compete.

    • I had a rule for the kids – no license before 18 unless you learn to race. My son took up the challenge, became an OK racer and learned where it is safe to go fast – on the track. On the road he is pretty reasonable, even when dad isn’t watching. But both learned how to drive in snow the way you teach your kids, and I make them slide – a lot. I wished more parents would do that.

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