I just sent off an e-mail containing the elegant construction “Oh no [pronoun] di’n’t!” and was stopped by the spell checker. Now, I can only imagine the cringing you are doing reading that dead, beaten horse of a catch phrase, but when I was presented with the options of “Ignore,” “Ignore All,” or “Add” I had to think for a moment. After all, I’m pretty sure that “di’n’t” is the clearest way of expressing the non-word I intended, so in the future I might want my spell-checker to recognize it. On the other hand, it’s absolutely not a word so I really can’t see adding it. Therefore, I suggest a feature for those of us with grammatical neuroses — “Ignore Always.” That way, we don’t have to validate a word in any way when the spell checker runs. Of course, not using such words is unthinkable…
Anyways, the news is reporting that according to the annual GMAC Insurance National Drivers Test, 1 in 6 drivers would fail a written driving test. You can take the test yourself — I only managed an 80%. They give a breakdown by state and, as they have in the past, found that the Northeast has the worst drivers while North Carolina continues to drift between lanes at 22. NC was 13 in 2007 and 2005 and 32 in 2006. On top of the large year-to-year variability, given what I have seen in my daily driving I have to wonder about their sampling methodology. It seems to me that there are more drivers who are completely ignorant of some laws here in North Carolina than anywhere else I have ever driven.
For instance, flashing yellow and red lights (both test questions) seem to perplex many Durham-area drivers. Many people come to a complete stop on flashing yellow, while just as many do not stop for flashing red. This is a major problem after Duke games when all the lights on Academy Rd. (which runs past Cameron Indoor Stadium) become flashing yellow and flashing red on the cross streets. I actually once watched two cars approach an intersection at nearly the same time, spot the flashing lights, and then hit the breaks so that they slowly (3-4 MPH) approached each other until they finally crashed. This maybe took half a minute. Fortunately none was hurt, but you could tell that neither car knew for sure what their light meant, nor had enough common sense not to ram another car. That’s just an anecdote, but if the plural of anecdotes is data I can at least say that most cars I see come to a complete stop for flashing yellow lights.
Finally, at least one of the questions on the test was incorrect, depending on the state. While it is true in North Carolina, and presumably many other states, that you must come to a stop for a stopped, flashing school bus no matter what side of the road it is on, this is not the case in Michigan (and apparently Illinois as well). In those states, if you are on a road with multiple lanes in both directions then you do not need to stop for a bus facing the opposite direction. You’re still not allowed to run over children, however.