‘Don’t look where you don’t want to go.’ — Author Unknown
In my life adventure as a father of three daughters, I have never faced anything as frightening and dangerous in their development into young adults as teaching them to drive automobiles. In our modern, mobile society, learning to operate a motor vehicle on American roads is as fundamental to success in life as a good education.
While I can still remember the thrill and expanded horizons that driving meant to me as a young man, I cannot help but feel that teaching my daughters to drive is akin to handing them a loaded gun that they have never handled before and stating, “Now try not to shoot yourself.” I have certainly worked hard with all three of them in an attempt to prepare them for the dangers of driving, even going so far as to insist all three learn to drive a standard transmission. I have done my best to outline the myriad driving-related dangers they will be confronting on the open road and impart lessons on how to avoid accidents. Despite all of this, I still experience a sensation of nausea every time they drive off, because I have 34 years of driving experience that has defined the risk so clearly for me personally. It is hard to impart this experience to a teenager who is thrilled at the prospect of driving to the mall without parents and the freedom that represents.
I am pretty sure to their young ears my warnings about driving sound something akin to the television adults on Charlie Brown holiday specials. They must have listened a little though, because all three are good drivers. I am not concerned so much about their skills, however, as I am about the insanity of other drivers on the road which I experience in my daily commute.
My wife and I have protected them from so much throughout their childhood, but the driver’s seat is one aspect of their lives where our ability to protect them falls uncomfortably short of the mark. Fact is, motor vehicle fatalities account for more than one-third of all teenager deaths, according to the National Center for Health Statistics (http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db37.htm) and is the leading cause of death in teenagers. Truly, handing my daughters the keys to the car exposes them to the greatest health risk they can experience in their young lives. If only there were a vaccine for driving; but of course there is not.