A suburban mother’s role is to deliver children obstetrically once, and by car forever after. ~Peter De Vries, American editor and novelist
We’ve got to find a better way of teaching our kids how to drive.
Last week, a 16-year-old honor student at our local high school was killed after apparently disregarding the railroad crossing gates on his way to school and being struck by an Amtrak train.
We can’t fault the train; no one was injured there, though it took them way longer to reach Chicago than they’d planned.
We can’t fault the weather; it was clear and sunny.
We can’t fault the state. Illinois has a graduated driver licensing program designed to reward young drivers with increasing privileges and responsibilities as they reach milestone ages, practice hours, and education.
It’s that practice hours thing that I think holds the answer, and it’s the parents/guardians who must take charge.
An Illinois teen needs to complete 50 hours of behind-the-wheel practice — 10 of which must be at night — with a responsible parent or guardian, along with a state-approved drivers education course.
Fifty hours might sound like a lot, but we know it’s not.
When Domer was in high school, we easily racked up 50 hours of practice. I insisted he drive on sunny days, on snow, during rain and wind. I put him on rural roads, interstates, and busy city traffic. I had him drive at night, on weekends, before and after school.
All in an effort to simulate the varied experiences he could face once he got his license and was permitted to drive solo.
It’s paid off. He’s a good driver, careful and alert.
Since then, I’ve heard of parents who fudged on the practice hours. Some claimed they didn’t have time to practice driving with their kid. Others figured the kids were getting everything they needed to know at school. Some said their kids had been “driving” farm equipment for years. Others assumed their kids would take to driving like baby ducks to water and not need practice.
We might never know the circumstances surrounding this latest accident.
Was the young driver running late and in a hurry? Was he still half-asleep? Was he (horrors!) on a cell phone?
What we do know is, his life ended far too soon, and every parent can feel the agony.
Carefulness costs you nothing. Carelessness may cost you your life. ~Safety saying, circa early 1900s