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by Abigail Van Buren

Sitting Behind Wheel Could Drive Woman to Destruction

DEAR ABBY: I have loved and read you forever, but your answer to the woman whose husband doesn't drive was, in my opinion, irrational. When I get behind the wheel of a car, my throat is dry, my heart pounds, my hands and feet perspire. I do not belong out there killing myself or a car full of kids. Do you want me beside you on the road, Dear Abby? I think not! -- "DOLL," ORANGE, CALIF.

DEAR DOLL: (What a wonderful name!) That would depend upon whether you had successfully completed a driving class, and you were licensed to drive beside me on the road. Franklin Delano Roosevelt once said, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself," which in your case I would interpret to mean that your fear of driving is more paralyzing than the reality of what you might encounter on the road. There are therapy and medication available, Doll, that will make your symptoms vanish.

You are not the only reader who took me to task for my answer. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: I must disagree with your advice to "Driven Crazy" regarding her husband's seeming fear of driving. You were correct that he should consult a doctor. Better than an M.D. would be an optometrist. He may have a problem with depth perception. I am well acquainted with this, as I suffer from it, too, and do not drive.

If that is his problem, he should be commended for not driving. It can be a hard decision to say, "I don't want to drive because I don't want to put myself and others at risk."

His wife should remember that driving is a privilege, not a right, and some people simply choose, for their own reasons, not to exercise that privilege. Our roads would be a lot safer if more people did that. Our transit systems get me to and from everywhere I need to go. -- JEANNE L., SANTA ROSA, CALIF.

DEAR JEANNE: I agree that our roads would be safer if incompetent drivers would choose not to get behind the wheel. However, the husband of the woman whose letter I printed had successfully completed a driver's education class and had a driver's license. In order to get a driver's license, one must pass an eye examination that tests depth perception. His problem was emotional, not physical. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: May I make a suggestion to "Driven Crazy," whose husband is afraid to drive? I taught both my children, and one foreign friend who was also frightened at the prospect, to drive with confidence in crazy California using a simple technique:

Wake up before dawn and practice where there are no other cars on the road. When a novice driver isn't worried about what other vehicles might do, he or she can concentrate on skills like getting on and off the freeway, parking in tight spots, making U-turns, changing lanes and so forth.

Start on the weekends, when traffic is low, and let the driver set the pace. As he or she gains confidence, drive later in the day as traffic increases. In a few months, your driver will be ready to take on any traffic jam, which is actually the easiest driving yet: The cars just sit there. -- OUT OF A JAM IN TUSTIN, CALIF.

DEAR OUT OF A JAM: You could be right. I admire your optimism.

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