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Driver’s Ed & Teachable Moments

For our last installment on lack of judgment and common sense for 2014 (I hope), I share the following:

Surely the approval of this advert was not made by one person. Image source:

Surely the approval of this advert was not made by one person. Image source:

The South Dakota highway safety director (he who approved the content of this attention-getting item) is expected to go before the South Dakota State Transportation Committee and answer questions about this public service advertisement, such as:

  • You know that the wording will not make people immediately think of safe driving on icy roads, right?
  • What were you thinking?

Again, I raise the question from yesterday: What has happened to common sense?

The individual who came up with the PSA knew what he was doing. He said he wanted to get people’s attention. Well, he sure did that. Guess this communication professional skipped the class on proofreading, which is covered in professional marketing.

Proofreading isn’t just about catching typos or grammatical gaffes. True proofreading also involves the writer asking:

  • ‘How will this message be perceived by the reader?’ and,
  • ‘How will this message reflect on the sender?’

I can assure you the South Dakota highway safety director was never one of my students. Talk about the ultimate teachable moment, though. This fellow probably won’t make the same mistake again.


Of course, this led me to think about our Emmett behind the wheel of a car. Was he ever?

My vote is yes. Although Emmett never owned a car, his brother Cephas did, and because Emmett lived and worked with his brother for several years, it is reasonable to believe that Emmett would have known how to drive the car. Emmett drove his father’s horse and buggy; it just makes sense that he’d have learned to drive a modern vehicle too. I’d say that Ceph was the one who taught Emmett how to drive.  Emmett’s father, Dr. Wilson, did not own a car while Emmett was alive.

Emmett never owned a car, but Cephas did -- a Buick. This is a 1905 Buick. Image source:

Emmett never owned a car, but Cephas did — a Buick. This is a 1905 Buick. Image source:

Second, Cephas’ car was a model very similar to the one on the right. The Buick is wide open; everything and everyone in this car would be visible.  If one were to ‘jerk and drive,’ it would be noticeable. Also, take a look at that steering wheel. The 1905 Buick existed before power steering. Emmett would need both hands on the wheel at all times, especially if you were traveling down Florida’s roads back in the day (which were mostly dirt and gravel, some with deep ruts from wagon wheels, uneven and poorly maintained, if at all).

The pricetag on this was out of range for most people in 1905. Source:

The price tag on the Buick was out of range for the average American in 1905. Source:

The Buick was an expensive car. In Florida, less than 1,000 actually owned automobiles during this time; it was just too costly for the average person. Knowing Cephas (who considered his fine home and belongings as extensions of himself), he would have insisted that whoever drove his car would treat it with extreme care. No horsing or jerking around, whatsoever.

And Emmett, being described as a modest, retiring kind of guy, would not be the kind of fellow that would chance a poor public image with misbehavior in Cephas’ fancy car. So, my vote is no on the idea of Emmett and the ‘jerk and drive’ experience.

Because formal driver education programs (as we know them today) didn’t start until the 1930s, Emmett and Cephas were experiential learners when it came to driving a car. I wonder if they were good drivers, or if either one of them ever got into a fender bender?

I recently found out that there is a record of traffic violations for Pensacola in the early 1900s. It is available in the University of West Florida archive. I’m curious if there is a similar record for Marianna. I’ll have to check on that.

Categories: Family Interesting & Odd Recommended Sources

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Communication, Arts, and the Humanities
The University of Maryland Global Campus

2 replies

  1. Speaking from the position of a former truck driver, I have to say all meanings of the SD public service ad are more appropriate than you may think.

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