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While I am definitely a car nut, and I enjoy driving, I believe that our society today really depends on the automobile way too much for daily transportation.  There is nothing I hate more than traffic congestion, and it just goes to show how bad the problem really is.  Now you say that I live in Richmond Virginia, and I really don't know what traffic is, but nothing can be farther from the truth.  First of all, I frequent the Washington DC area frequently for work, and to see friends.  That area is a nightmare!  Let me give you some advice...TAKE THE TRAIN!!! Second of all, because the Richmond area has comparatively less traffic than other big cities, the engineers and planners around here don't give much though to moving serious volumes of traffic.  While the city as a whole moves along pretty good, there are pockets of sluggishness that develop frequently for no reason, other than bad engineering!  But there are many other problems that we as United States citizens face when it comes to transportation.  We have basically become a "car-bound" society, and not a single citizen can operate without the automobile.  Here are some reasons why.

Poor Planning
Back, before the invention of the automobile, and even before World War II, cities were planned out with walking, and public transportation in mind.  Commercial, business, and industrial sections were located precisely so that citizens could live near where they worked or shopped.  The advent of suburban neighborhoods in the fifities, and affordable automobiles allowed people to live on the outside of town, and commute into town.

We give Drivers licenses away like candy!
Throughout my technical career, I encounter many pieces of equipment that requires not only great skill, but permits to operate, but one piece of equipment that is not only extremely powerful, but can have the most dramatic impact on the lives of others requires very little knowledge to operate, and is frightenly easy to obtain a permit to use.  That piece of equipment is the automobile.  Echoing back to the first example, that we cannot function as a society without the automobile, we now feel obligated to give anyone a permit to drive one that sets foot into the DMV office. Yes, there is a written and behind the wheel exam, but most of these, a monkey can pass, and they really don't test the driver on how they will perform in critical situations.  Besides, does knowing drunk driving statistics really make someone a better driver?
    From the Aviation world, pilots must take the training exam every 5 years upon renewal of their pilot's license, and must also pass a challenging ground test, and in-flight test procedure that takes the pilot through many different scenarios before getting a license.  Something similar needs to be done for an automobile driver's license. Today, There are many different types of vehicles out on the road, and many different types of roads that these vehicles can be driven on, and yet different types of enviornmental conditions as well.  A driver's license grants you the authority to legally drive virtually any vehicle, on any road, under any condition.  For example, a standard driver's license will allow me to drive a Honda Civic on a city street, but also allows me to drive an MCI motorhome on an interstate, or drive an SUV during a snowstorm.  The problem is that when the driving test at DMV is given, it's usually done in an ordinary car, on a sunny day, with just a quick drive around the block.  The applying driver may not know how to perform in all these varied ways.  Just like the FAA issues different pilot's licences for different sized planes, and for different conditions, and different areas, the same thing needs to happen to automobile licenses. Here are some of the various license classes I think we should have:
        Standard license: which grants ONLY passenger car and light truck use on primary and secondary roads
        Interstate driving class: Grants driving privlidges to interstate highways, and any limited access road, and roads with speeds above 55 mph
        Poor condition: for drivers who want to drive in snow, heavy rains, extreme fog, or other challenging conditions
        Oversize vehicle:  for drivers wishing to drive vehicles with high center of gravity, or gross weight over 8000 pounds
 

 
Inexperience / lack of proper training
    This reflects back on the previous topic about being too slack on the driver's licenses.

  Driving for a living, I see small errors every day that people do that could cause potientally catastrophic consequences simply because they don't know what they are doing or the repercussions behind their action.  For instance, slowing down on an interstate on-ramp.  This action not only causes the traffic behind this person on the ramp to slow, but also causes oncoming traffic that is already on the interstate to slow down when the slower, merging driver pulls out.   Slightly farther back, other drivers start abruptly changing lanes without looking in order to avoid the slowdown.  Some drivers are forced into sholder areas of the road, horns honk, etc.  The problem is that the origional driver, thinking that he is performing a cautions, safe act has absloutley no clue of the mayhem they caused just a short distance back.
    The modern driver's ed classes in school are a real joke.  They go over right-of-way a little bit, the repercussions of drunk driving, and get the student driver familiar with how a car handles, but outside of that, hardly any real instruction is given on how to keep 3000 pounds of metal on the road in serious situations.