Keys please, Dad …

Keys please, Dad …

Road carnage, e-tolling and incompetent officials – all an unfortunate sign of the times. But stress behind the wheel existed back when “road safety programmes” involved laying tar over gravel, e-anything related to something in science fiction, and the incompetent authority figure was your dad teaching you bad habits.

I suppose it all started when the conversation turned to “those scary driving moments.” The close calls, and too-close calls, which invariably got a third party involved – the parents, the police, or both!

Beats me how hysterical someone can become over a bit of missing paint. Worse than missing a six-inch putt for a R10 bet …

We’ve all come close to doing the insurance paperwork at some point in our driving careers, but have you considered what it must have been like trying to teach us to drive. (I might be giving away my age, but I’m talking pre-driving-school days!)

Being the eldest, I had to rely on my folks for tuition. Good thing too, seeing as my mates’ fathers were way too strict and had a fondness for applying the backhand when you least expected it. A gnarled farmer’s hand hits like a bear!

It was all a bit confusing really. My folks had the misfortune of trying to get me ready for the dreaded driving test. Fact is, I could drive quite well by the time my voice broke. The problem was learning to undo all the bad habits I’d picked up from watching my Dad.

None of this “10 to 2” hand position nonsense – if you had a hand on the wheel, you were okay. I found out the hard way that it only worked for James Dean in his movies. And see how he ended up … well, you definitely need both hands on the wheel when doing 100 on gravel. That’s miles per hour.

I’m so grateful someone had the foresight to steal that particular section of fence, and that the farmer had decided to leave that field fallow for the season. Still, a V8 Chevy carries a lot of momentum, even more so sideways. Luckier still was that there was no need to fetch the tractor to pull the Chevy out of the field either!

Seeing that I was the sucker who had the pleasure of washing the car on weekends, I can’t tell you just how much grass I kept removing from the most unlikely places for weeks after the farming incident. I’m surprised the car didn’t set itself on fire with all that Botswana sun around.

My father couldn’t figure out why the rear wheels had to be aligned. I think he and my Mom had words. I kept out of that conversation. The basic difference between the two of them was that my Dad drove fast, my Mom didn’t. Mixed signals, you see. I forgot to mention that they knew nothing about that particular excursion.

Mind you, the only time I actually dented a car while learning to drive was when I was going slowly – reversing actually. Mom was the coach at the time, in her VW Beetle.

Oh boy, we both thought we were in for it that evening. Luckily, Dad scratched the BMW on the way home from the club – reversed into a concrete bollard that wasn’t in the car park when he got there. Mom got in first – his dent was bigger than mine. Case settled.


SKID MARKS is a regular column in which Gary Ronald presents his personal and sometimes jaundiced view on transport, safety and mobility. Ronald has a wealth of experience in these fields has presented numerous papers both locally and internationally. He’s been with the AA since 2000 and is currently its head of public affairs. All comments published here reflect his own opinion, and not that of the AA. FOCUS appreciates his witty, topical and sometimes irreverent stance on the industry. If you’d like to respond to whatever punches he throws, visit

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