When I was finally old enough to get my driver’s license, I suspect my parents were so tired of asking me if I could drive the car that I would probably have been allowed to drive if I passed the test or not.
It would be like referring to a Category 5 hurricane as a slight breeze to say that I was eager to get my drivers license. I really wanted to get started driving and I would ask them constantly if I could go to practice. To my parents’ relief, I passed the test. Getting my license was everything I hoped it would be — and to this day I still love to drive. In fact, my wife and I participated in a 6,000-mile road rally this summer with other driving enthusiasts and when we finally got home I was ready to jump back in the car and do it again. I enjoy driving that much.
So, when my eldest son announced he’d be getting his license this year, I guess I should have known what to expect — constant driving chatter, regular requests for a few “practice laps” and unrealistic hopes for his birthday’s own car.
As familiar as it was to me, I experienced it this time around from the point of view of a parent. And that was different for the boy. I’d think about the dangers and responsibilities when my son spoke about driving. When he asked for practice time, I imagined speeding tickets and fender benders. When he told me he wanted a car for his birthday, I laughed out loud.
It seems that when I was his age I was much older (I was definitely more mature… wasn’t I?). How can a 4,000-pound car be entrusted to someone who can’t remember putting the milk back in the refrigerator? These are the thoughts that have gone through my mind (and don’t get me to start on the nightmares that I had while trying to sleep at night…).
Don’t forget the small stuff. Ensure pulling up to banks, fast food drive-thrus and fuel pumps are practiced. These are common situations where dents and dings take place, so help your new driver understand how to navigate them and what to look for.
Vary the driving situations. Give nighttime, dusk, rush hour, etc. to your new driver practice. A simple neighborhood street of 25 mph can be much more dangerous if the sun is in your eyes and little kids play near the road. Different times of day and traffic patterns require the driver to be aware of different surroundings and distractions.
Be a good example. You should always set a good example and watch you closely while your child is learning to drive. Make sure you are the driver you expect to be the rule-and law-abiding driver. Come to a complete stop, for example, do not accelerate through the yellow traffic signals and be courteous to other drivers.
We practiced. He studied for the tests. And before I knew it, our family had gained another licensed driver.
I woke up the next morning and despite my terrible predictions, the sun still shone, the birds still tweeted, and at the beginning of each month my mortgage was still due. And now we have another person who can drive back to the store to pick up the gallon of milk that I left in the shopping cart …