Monday, June 7, 2010
“To whom much is given, much is expected” –Luke 12:48
Driving is such a big part of every teenager’s life. Teens are walking that fine line between gladly depending on their parents for so much and desiring the freedom to call their own shots. Driving represents the ability to have control. It represents a “rite of passage” to a bigger adult world. But driving is serious business. According to insurance industry statistics, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among 15 to 20 year olds. 16-year-olds have higher crash rates than drivers of any other age and 16-year-olds are 3 times more likely to die in a motor vehicle crash than the average of all drivers.
Handled correctly, the driving phase of the teen years can be a great platform to teach kids a little humility and a lot of responsibility.
On a clear December morning in 1973, I left home with my mom to drive across Fort Worth to take my driver test. I was 16 and so excited. My three older brothers were always several steps ahead of me in the “mature human being” area, but getting my driver’s license would move me one step closer to catching up with them. It seems like I’ve spent most of my life trying to catch up with them. I had this particular morning all worked out. After I passed the test, I was going to drop my mom off at the house and then drive on to school where my friends would meet me in the parking lot. I had washed the ’69 Camero that would be passed down to me to drive and I was feeling pretty cool.
The test went great. I aced the written exam and the driving part was going well. We got to the last part of the test…the dreaded (organ music please) parallel parking! I’d practiced with my dad and I was ready. I signaled, pulled up even with the flag, checked the mirrors and proceeded to back up. But I turned too sharp and hit the curb. I pulled forward a bit and slid right into the parking spot. Boom. I was finished. I was done. I had passed and highway, here I come! No, wait. The instructor sitting next to me didn’t seem as excited as I did. As we exited the car, he announced (in what seemed like in slow motion, like the Matrix), “You did well, but when you hit that curb, you committed an automatic safety disqualification. I’m sorry. You’ll have to retake the test.” (organ music again).
I was devastated. I asked the officer if I could retake the test, but he said I’d have to come back another day. So, my mom dropped me off at the high school in front of all my friends. They knew what had happened. The guys laughed and the girls felt sorry for me (typical). I went from being cocky to eating crow. I also learned that driving was serious stuff. I went back the next morning and passed, but the parade wasn’t waiting for me when I drove into the school parking lot.
Most teens will pass the test on the first try, but most teens don't realize how much responsibility they’re actually taking on when they begin to drive. Be sure you teach your kids about the seriousness of driving. If they get a ticket, have them help pay off the debt and feel the sting. If they get in an accident, have them bear the weight of the mistake. As with any responsibility, teach your teens how to handle it with wisdom and patience.
It just might save their lives.
By Eric Joseph Staples ©