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For Find Out Friday - Why Do We Spell “Driving” With the Letter “L”?

Ok, I am not crazy. I know the word “driving” is not spelled with the letter “L”. However, you cannot start the engine of any car without noticing it. 

For those who are not sure where I am going with this, I want to know what the “L” stands for on the gearshift of automobiles. 

The other day while in the car, my purse fell off the armrest and actually shifted the gear from “D” to “N”. Yes, my purse is that heavy.

When I looked straight ahead past my steering wheel I realized that although I took driver’s ed and passed my both my permit and driving tests on the first tries, I did not know what that “L” all the way to the left stood for.

Sure for a moment I thought maybe it just stood for left. But I suspected I that was not the case. 

Turns out it actually stands for “Low”, like when you need to drive in low gear. 

That didn’t help me. 

When are you supposed to drive in low gear? 

Since I am now thirty-seven years old and have been driving for roughly twenty years,


for the horror that I experienced when I did that math, 

I have never ever needed to shift into that particular gear. This had me worrying that perhaps I should have.

According to those in the know, low gear is ideal when driving down or up a hill or when there is a lot of snow/ice on the ground. In these instances low gear may come in handy as it gives you more control.

On the rare occasion I am driving down hill I just take my foot off the gas and ride the brake. Same thing when it is icy out. Turns out that can burn out your brakes if you are doing it over an extended period of time. 

But with cars, such as mine, that have an automatic transmission, we never really have to worry. Once the car is in “drive”, the car knows how to accelerate or not depending on the landscape. This explains why I never use low gear in all the time I have been driving. For me it serves no real purpose. 

Now that I know what it stands for I am tempted to drive in low gear simply to see what it is like. 

For the record, I have never driven in neutral gear either, so anyone getting in my car within the next week is really in for an adventure.

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