Driving in America

Driving in America

Saturday, December 4, 2010
posted by Michael Simms

By Songyi Zhang

Since I’ve been in America for a year, I am no longer considered a newcomer. I am supposed to know the society better, at least deeper, than a year ago. But if you ask me whether I am used to my American life, I’d say I am still adjusting.

A year ago, I had no identity other than my passport. I had no asset other than the four suitcases I brought across the Pacific Ocean.

A year later, I have my student ID, a social security number, and a driver’s license. My wallet is bulging with a number of cards—library card, health insurance card, supermarket discount card, and debit card. And I have my first automobile, a used 2002 Chevy Cavalier.

Owning a car is a dream for young working people in China. Many of them work for years to save money for a car. But here, in the Country of the Automobile, having a vehicle is not only necessary but also cheaper than in China. I would have to pay four or five times more in China for my used Cavalier.

Of course, with privilege comes obligation. I have to remember the date for an oil change, the date for an inspection, the date for license registration, the date for insurance renewal, and I have to remember to wash the car and fill the fuel tank. Having a car is no different from raising a pet. Fortunately, I don’t have to fill my car with gas every single day like I feed a dog.       

Not until I drive on the road, do I realize it’s almost as common as the sun rising from the east that Americans enjoy talking on the cell phone while driving. Why don’t they use headsets? In this regard, drivers in my hometown of Guangzhou do much better. Strictly speaking, drivers are not allowed to do anything other than keep both hands on the wheel and eyes on the road. Eating, drinking, listening to the radio and anything that will distract your attention are not recommended, and these rules are clear in the Pennsylvania Driver’s Manual. Like everyone, I also studied these rules carefully for my driver’s knowledge test. But reality is a different story.

In America, it is common to see drivers holding a phone with one hand with the other on the wheel. Don’t they consider other drivers’ safety?  Some people even text message while driving. Although their multi-tasking skills are admirable, I really hope they don’t kill someone.

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