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March 17, 2008, Monday

A perfect world

As I drive around the city, I often catch myself thinking, “There ought to be a law against...”
Here are a few laws that I would pass if I were an autocratic ruler over all of Turkey: Rule one: Driving ends at a certain “age.” Now before you start accusing me of being ageist and reminding me that in Turkey we should respect our elders, I don’t exactly mean a numerical age. In an article titled “10 Driving Hazards” that I read on AOL recently, it defined this age as “a state of mind when giving a damn for others on the road (or even sidewalks) ceases to be. The driver could be 88 or 18.”

Rule two: Driving solo certainly doesn’t begin until you have a certain number of actual driving hours. I was horrified when I took a friend for some driving practice in my car the week before her test. She could only drive in a straight line, and had never turned left or right. She had no idea of how to turn the wheel back after a turn and ending up driving onto the curb. I was even more horrified the following day, when she proudly rang me to say she had passed her test.

In the US pilots have to have a certain number of flying hours before they are allowed out on their own. In Turkey this should apply to drivers too.

Rule three: Specifications should be listed on the entrances of roads. If it is a narrow road, only a certain size car should be allowed to drive on it. Jeeps and SUVs are to be banned on nearly all roads except the widest boulevards and highways.

Rule four: Good running condition. There should be a law that states that if you have to put a liter of oil in your car or truck every 50 kilometers, it should not be on the road. Have you noticed some cars that fit this category sometimes have fancy tires, custom exhausts and racing stripes? You and I both know the racing stripes do not make your car go faster, but I wonder if the driver does.

Rule five: Driving with your pet hanging out the window. It always makes me nervous when I see a driver with their dog on their lap behind the wheel or hanging out the window. The only time I let my dog stick his head out the window is when the car is parked. And then the window is only half-way down.

Rule six: Bumper stickers that read, “Baby in car!” (Bebek Var!). If the parents are really concerned about the child’s safety, where is the kid’s car seat? How many cars have you seen with children bouncing around inside, with no seatbelts -- let alone car seats -- in sight? Also, have you noticed that the driver with this bumper sticker often takes risks and nearly causes a crash? But he expects the driver behind him to drive safely and not hit him?

Rule seven: My car has a turn signal and it works! Does yours? The other day on the TEM a very fast and swanky car pulled up behind me from out of nowhere. I immediately saw him when he flashed his high beams at me. I put on my blinker to indicate that I would change to the right lane. But before I knew it, he was so impatient he passed me on my right. Good thing I use my mirrors, or we would have sideswiped each other!

One main difference between the roads in the US and those in Turkey is that the US Highway Department usually places a sign on the road to warn drivers that a lane is closed ahead and that they should signal and begin to merge. In Turkey, there is usually no warning, so I understand why people don’t signal then. You are excused.

Rule eight: No answering your mobile phone while skiing or driving. “Skiing?” I hear you say. No, I haven’t gone crazy. The other day one of my staff had to call a customer to inform her that her special order of books had arrived. You can imagine our faces when the lady answered the phone and said: “Wait a minute! I’m just skiing down a slope; let me pull to one side.”

Rule nine: Do you really need to send text messages while driving? Other drivers used to complain about women putting on lipstick at the traffic light while waiting for it to change. Nowadays, we have a much bigger problem. The other day I was navigating the narrow lanes of Moda when I came upon two cars blocking the road. They had run into each other. Why? One of them had been text messaging while turning the corner.

It was Douglas MacArthur who said, “Rules are mostly made to be broken and are too often for the lazy to hide behind.”

Now, it is up to you to think of rule 10.

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