SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

Dad driven to distraction



January 03, 2017
Tuesday PM

Ketchikan, Alaska -
Dear Alaska Department of Motor Vehicles:

jpg  Dave Kiffer

I have never been one to quibble with the wisdom of the State of Alaska.

Especially not with a specific agency that can consign me to spending hours in a fluorescently-enhanced room packed with seething people, waiting to argue that their licenses should be reinstated because their fifth DUI was not really their fault, it was the fault of their friends who were the ones who REALLY too drunk to drive themselves safely home.

But I fear that you have made a mistake.

It seems that you have decided that my 16-year-old son should be able to operate a motor vehicle.

By himself!!!

Granted, I get that you are doing this partially to lower my own stress level, which gets dangerously high when I am in the car with him.

He never breaks quickly enough when approaching an intersection and he was always swings WAY too wide going around corners. It's like the centrifugal force is going to carry me out of the passenger seat altogether. Fortunately I am held in place by a wide array of deadly exploding safely devices also know as air bags.

Speaking of which, doesn't it seem a little odd that people are being killed specifically by a bunch of exploding air bags that are supposed to save them? Next thing you know, someone is going to claim that auto makers have decided to meet emission standards by rigging controls to spew out faulty readings. Hard to imagine.

Still, I think that in looking to lower my stress level, you are taking your eyes off the other people on the road. What about their stress levels?

Look at is this way. The vehicle he is driving weighs just about 2,392 pounds. That number jumps up to 2,526 pounds if you count his school back pack. It goes well over 3,121 pounds if you add in his baseball gear. At any rate, that's a pretty heavy blunt object that he is in charge of steering.

Now assuming he obeys all traffic laws including speed limits (Hahahaha... hahahahahahahaha.. hahahahahahahaha.... hahahahahahahahaha... hahahahahaha... hahahah) then he will be driving that projectile an average of 31.69 mph (source, 2013 State of Alaska Kiffer Driveway Traffic Study).

Of course, I am not a math whiz but when you take a 3,121 pound object at a speed of 31.69 mph you get a force equivalent of, of, of, well never-mind. Just know that it would leave a mark when the blunt object hits you.

Come to think of it, you are part of a larger governmental structure that believes is okay to give an industry $1.3 billion in tax credits in order to generate $95 million in returns, so I suspect your math acumen is not sharp enough to question mine.

But I digress.

Anyway, I suspect you are also snarking on me because I didn't use the proper term, Newtons, to describe this "force" with which I am concerned. Unfortunately the only Newtons I remember from school are the fig ones during Brunch Break.

Newtons were great for lobbing across the room to at someone you were irritated with. They taught us a lot about velocity and launch angle. And nothing sounded more whiny than the aggrieved party shouting "he hit me with a Fig Newton."

Ooh, better call the wambulance!

I do, though, vaguely remember learning that Aristotle said something about "force" as anything that causes something to undergo "unnatural motion."

Well, State of Alaska Department of Motor Vehicles, you now say my son is qualified to go about creating the aforementioned "unnatural motion" via the vehicle he is now allowed to propel - BY HIMSELF - from one end of the island to another.

Of course, I was not allowed to join Liam and his examiner on the drive that reached this favorable conclusion about his driverworthiness. I have heard that having a parent sighing and twitching in the back seat is considered a distraction. Go figure.

But I vaguely remember my own State of Alaska Drivers Test.

It was in 1975 and that was sooooo long ago that it involved a dog sled team. And it was brutal.

Have you ever tried to parallel park a dog sled team? And since it was a standard dog sled team rather than an automatic one, the "stop and start on a hill" was particularly challenging. All those little claws just clicked and skittered on the pavement before they got enough traction to get going again.

It was also tricky performing "the driving backwards for half a block" exercise. The only time that dog sled teams go in reverse is if they accidentally pass up the only tree on the tundra.

But times have changed in the past 40 years and young Alaskans no longer have to use dog sled teams for drivers license testing.

Just as well.

A cat ran across the street as my team was approaching and we had a slight detour from the prescribed route. It is always good to show the examiner that you CAN navigate a "vehicle" down the sidewalk with a minimum loss of pedestrian life.

Apparently Liam successfully passed the pedestrian avoidance section of his test. I'm sure I would have heard otherwise, right?

Or maybe that's why our car insurance doubled 3.5 minutes after he completed his test?

Fortunately, the vehicle he is driving already comes pre-dented, so we can always claim than any damage Liam causes to it was a "pre-existing condition."

Natch, the damage to other vehicles (and pedestrians) is a different story. Now, I am going to have to contact all the other residents of the Ketchikan Gateway Borough and offer to provide them bubble wrap to protect their vehicles and other valuables.

And since plastic bubble wrap is a petroleum product, any chance I can get a production-enhancement tax credit for this?


Dave Kiffer


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Dave Kiffer is a freelance writer living in Ketchikan, Alaska.
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