Did your Dad teach you how to drive?

For many of us, the first driving lesson we ever had was from someone we called Dad.

That was certainly the case for me. From a young age, I would watch how Dad would drive, and years later, he would watch me. Sometimes he would correct things he felt needed correction, but most of the time he'd let me be.

Since Father's Day is coming up, let me share a few lessons I picked up from mine. Chances are, you can relate too.

Dad: My First Driving Instructor image

Bump cars with Dad

Stay Focused

Whenever Dad would be behind the wheel, he would be focused on the driving, constantly scanning the road  and nothing else. He doesn't get distracted by a new billboard, the movie screening times on the wall of the mall, or by the pretty ladies crossing the pedestrian lane. I mean, if our dads did get distracted on that last one, they would probably end up sleeping on the couch on the orders of someone we call Mom.

That also means he didn't drink then drive. When I was a kid my folks were living in Oman in the Middle East. While being expats meant they can procure alcohol via special exemptions, driving on the road whilst intoxicated carried very stiff penalties. Zero tolerance. If he wanted to drink, Mom would be the designated driver. When they retired back here, that designated driver was me.

But more than that, he recognized that driving carried with it a big responsibility. Yes, it's a symbol of freedom as a fresh graduate or a bachelor, but as you get older the reality that you're responsible for more than just yourself (e.g. your family) sets in. That's why he always stayed alert and would scold me if I got distracted by my phone when I would be behind the wheel. And he never slowed down to ogle at any accident on the road; no Marites/Tolits here.

Dad: My First Driving Instructor image

One of the many wadis in Oman

Patience and Composure

Was your pops a poster, uh, dad, for composure even under stress?

In 1994 we were on the highway in the desert halfway between Muscat to Dubai. That was a 10-hour drive back then, we drove it his 1986 Mazda 626 Coupe in two tone. I love that car especially with its digital gauge cluster.

Whilst sitting in the back, I heard something wrong with the rear tires and I asked Dad if we needed to pull over. He said not to worry and then slowed down to 60 km/h until the next gas station an hour or so down the road. When we stopped, we spotted that a little piece of the tread had cracked and was flapping. Risky, but not exactly an emergency yet at the time. He calmly installed the spare tire, and we went back on our way.

Panic or worrying would have been unnecessary and counterproductive. He always stayed composed, and that's a reassuring quality for the family. He doesn't exhibit any panic even though the situation gets tricky like when we were on the road and there was a ridiculously heavy downpour.

But apart from his unflappable character, Dad always displayed an exceptional degree of patience on the road. Traffic, while frustrating, never seemed to faze him. Of course as he got older that changed, but still always measured and composed. When he would drive, he will never be in a rush because he always left on time and with time to spare just in case. If only I could have inherited that habit.

Dad: My First Driving Instructor image

Dad took this photo of me seeing my first Rolls-Royce in Dubai in 1994

Space and Respect

When Dad retired here, it took him a while to get accustomed to the Metro Manila state of mind when driving. He was used to wide-open spaces and somewhat more orderly traffic abroad, so getting him acclimatized to our ways was a little difficult, but he adapted.

Even then, Dad still gave others the proper space and respect on the road. He would use his signals diligently and practice a sense of give and take. That was his pet peeve actually: how other drivers know only to take, but won't give space even if you're merging properly. Many will only give when you force them into submission. Still, he practiced what he believed in.

When I started driving as an 18-year-old, he would actually scold me about how aggressive I could be when moving around traffic. With his guidance, I toned down. If you give each other fair space and the proper degree of mutual respect on the road, accidents are easily avoidable.

Dad: My First Driving Instructor image

Another wadi adventure in Oman

Stick To Your Principles

Dad was a stickler for following proper techniques. As a former military man and aircraft technician, he was used to systems, procedures, handbooks, and protocols, and that's how he drove too.

He never blocked an intersection or ran a red or even yellow light. He always followed whatever the signpost said like No Right Turn On Red. He brought the car to a stop whenever he saw a pedestrian put a foot on the zebra stripes. It mattered not if the guy behind is honking his horn as to why Dad wouldn't turn or why he stopped for a pedestrian here in the Philippines. This is the way, he said.

The only thing he didn't adhere to so strictly was the speed limit. If it said 100 km/h, he would probably be doing 110 or 120. Of course, Mom would remind him to bring it down to exactly 100. She was the stickler for the 100 rule.

Dad: My First Driving Instructor image

My Mom with Dad's 626 Coupe

Dad: The Car Critic

If you've seen my videos on the AutoIndustriya YouTube channel (don't forget to subscribe) or our Facebook page, then you'll know I can be very critical of cars that I don't think make the grade or when I think an automaker cut a few corners. If you think I can be harsh, guess where I got that from: Dad.

In the many times he rode with me whilst I had a test vehicle, he wouldn't be afraid to say a car is ugly, or if the designers messed up the interior, or if the ride was unusually harsh, or if it was too noisy, or if the trunk space was rubbish. A lot of his inputs I actually use, especially since it's good to have a different perspective; what's comfortable for me may not be for him. And if we're talking about family vehicles where your parents or grandparents may join you, that will matter.

There are many times I've asked him to drive one of the demo cars, but he always refused to give it a whirl. He would never drive anything he wasn't insured for. That's just how he was, and it is another of his principles.

Dad: My First Driving Instructor image

Yeah, I picked up a lot of lessons from Dad when it comes to driving. I'm sure for many of you the story will be the same.

If your Dad is still around today, give him a hug and let him know you appreciate him because you'll never know when it may be the last. On that, I speak from experience: Dad joined my Mom in the great beyond just two weeks ago after a brief battle with the big C.

I miss my Mom and Dad, but they live on. The lessons they imparted: invaluable. All those years spent sitting in the back observing them drive helped shape how I've managed to stay relatively accident-free (except for the instances where I was hit) and why violation tickets are very rare things for me.

I hope I didn't just jinx myself.