If there's one area where our great nation could use some serious help, I think it's how we train our drivers.
I discovered this when I first visited Germany on a business trip with my old company, Porsche, noted manufacturer of SUVs, crossovers, hatchback sedans, and – occasionally, when the mood strikes – highly combustible sports cars.
What I learned from my German colleagues is that in order to get your driver's license in Germany, you must go through a rigorous, difficult process; a process that requires hours of preparation, and studying, and hard work, and tireless effort, similar to what we do in the States when we want to cancel our Comcast service.
Really, though: the Germans have it rough. For one thing, you can't get a full license over there until you're 18. Worse, the licensing process costs nearly $2,000 from start to finish. And you also have to take road lessons, and attend classes, and pass comprehensive theory exams, and pass driving exams, and sit with an instructor for hours on end. It's so tough that nearly a third of Germans fail their first time around! Whereas in America, our driver training process primarily consists of a) the honor system, and b) multiple choice exams with questions like:
1. What should you do if you see a stop sign?
c) Spray paint "WAR" on the lower half of the sign.
d) English is not my first language, and therefore I do not have to answer this question, under the provisions of the English Is Not My First Language Act of 2007, section 4, paragraph A.
So we have this rampant problem here in the United States of idiots behind the wheel. Listen up, Canadians, because this means you, too, based on the number of drivers I see with Ontario plates who seem to think "green light" means "keep looking at your phone until the guy behind you honks his horn."
But I recently discovered we have an even larger problem than I first thought – and I mean that in a very literal way. That's because the vast majority of US states don't require you to get a special license in order to drive a recreational vehicle.
For those of you who don't think this is a problem, allow me to explain the current state of the modern recreational vehicle. To do this, I must direct you to the website of American Coach, a company that manufactures those RVs that look like Greyhound should be using them to transport dozens of sleepy passengers back and forth across the country, but in reality the owners are just a retired accountant and his wife who want to hit the slots every weekend in Laughlin.
On this website, you will find something called the 2015 American Heritage 45A, which is an enormous luxury RV that sells for – I swear this is true – $843,750. Yes, that's right: if you have $850,000 burning a hole in your pocket, one of the decisions you'll have to make is whether you want to purchase a beautiful, 3-bedroom condo on the north side of Chicago with lake views and marble floors and a breathtaking balcony, or a 44-foot bus that includes a bathroom the size of a surge protector.
And here's the thing: people actually buy these buses! Sometimes they're carrying touring bands, sometimes they're carrying race teams, and sometimes they're just carrying an old couple who's towing their 2006 Saturn Vue to visit their grandkids. But regardless of who's driving, everyone behind the wheel has one thing in common: they all have a normal driver's license.In other words: according to our government, driving around in a 44-foot tour bus requires the exact same training, licensing, and regulation process as driving around in a 1997 Mercury Mystique.
But these two vehicles aren't the same, as I will now demonstrate with an unbiased, factual comparison between the Mercury Mystique and the American Heritage 45A. Here goes:
POWER (measured in horsepower)
Mercury Mystique: 174
American Heritage 45A: 600
TORQUE (measured in pound-feet)
Mercury Mystique: 162
American Heritage 45A: 1,950
WEIGHT (measured in pounds)
Mercury Mystique: 2,831
American Heritage 45A: 37,000
LENGTH (measured in water creature)
Mercury Mystique: Saltwater crocodile
American Heritage 45A: Humpback whale
DESIGN FEATURES (measured in beauty)
Mercury Mystique: Paint transfer from that time you ran into a parked scooter at your community college and sped away
American Heritage 45A: A bunch of strange designs painted on the side to distract you from the fact that it's the size of a convention center
PAYLOAD CAPACITY (measured in humans)
Mercury Mystique: Three of your high school buddies and some sick subwoofers in back
American Heritage 45A: Enough for a Congressional quorum
For those of you who aren't seeing quite how ridiculous this is, allow me to provide you with just one more item to put it in perspective. Let's say you're a 16-year-old kid, and you decide to stop texting for just long enough to head into the DMV and pick up your driver's license. So you show up in your mom's 2002 Dodge Intrepid, and you go in, and you take the test, and you fail the first time around, so you tell them English isn't your first language, and you get your license. Well, according to most U.S. states, you are now qualified to go home and cruise around in an $850,000 mobile home that requires an area the size of a regulation basketball court to complete a 3-point turn.
Isn't this crazy? YES!! Of COURSE it's crazy, because we all know that every single 2002 Dodge Intrepid is sitting in a junkyard somewhere with a blown transmission. So we can see that my above example was hypothetical. But it could happen, which is why you should write your congressperson immediately and explain the situation. Address your letter to the American Heritage 45A on Capitol Hill.
@DougDeMuro is the author of Plays With Cars. He owned an E63 AMG wagon and once tried to evade police at the Tail of the Dragon using a pontoon boat. (It didn't work.) He worked as a manager for Porsche Cars North America before quitting to become a writer, largely because it meant he no longer had to wear pants. Also, he wrote this entire bio himself in the third person.