And I’m not ready. Not even close to being ready for him to get behind the wheel — with me in the front seat or not. A few months ago, I thought I might be ready by now. I signed Connor up for an online driver’s ed class, and we started going through the material together.
Quickly, I had an overwhelming sense of dread and fear. It’ll pass, I told myself. Connor is old enough (at least by the calendar) to understand the dangers of driving and make the instantaneous decisions necessary to be a safe motorist.
That’s what I told myself, anyway. Several times a week, we sat at the computer together and studied the rules of the road. Some parents let their kids take online driver’s ed without any supervision. Not me. I wanted to go over the material myself with Connor, reinforcing the lessons, asking him questions to test his understanding and emphasizing the life-and-death nature of driving.
We didn’t finish driver’s ed
Fortunately, we stopped the driver’s ed course well before we finished. On the surface, we simply got too busy. Connor attended summer school in June, then we went on a weeklong cruise. By the time we returned, his interest in resuming the demanding driver’s ed course had waned. My fears of him driving had escalated.
Ironically, the moment I knew he wasn’t ready occurred on the golf course two weeks ago. Connor doesn’t play golf, but he’ll sometimes drive the cart while I play. This time, in particular, he drove miserably. He couldn’t stay on the cart path, he hit curbs, he backed up without looking. If we’d been in a car instead of a golf cart, the results could have been disastrous and I would have been even more terrified.
That night, I told Connor I wasn’t ready for him to drive, that I didn’t want to resume driver’s ed until after his 16th birthday next spring. Surprisingly, he didn’t fight me. Thankfully, I think he knew he wasn’t prepared to drive — and that I wasn’t prepared either.
Are most parents this worried about their kids learning to drive? I doubt it. You see, my fear comes largely from my own experience in a horrific accident when I was in my mid-20s, not too many years after getting my driver’s license.
I was heading west on a busy interstate highway in Dallas on a Sunday evening. Rained poured down. Suddenly a car traveling east sped across the grassy median, and we collided head-on. The front of my Mazda 626 crumpled like an accordion, and my face slammed into the steering wheel. The impact knocked out my two front teeth, crushed my nose and opened a gash beneath my lower lip.
An ambulance rushed me to the hospital. Fortunately, I had no internal injuries. A plastic surgeon sewed up the two-inch scar on my face, and I was released after a few hours. Soon, another surgeon rebuilt my nose, using a piece of plastic for support that I still have today. A dentist fitted me with fake teeth.
Actually, I was very fortunate. My injuries could have been life-threatening. They were not. The injuries could have altered my quality of life. They did not. Still, the memory of that accident remains with me to this day, more than 30 years later. I may be the most careful (paranoid?) driver in Dallas.
Young drivers at risk
I think of all the young drivers, anxious to get behind the wheel, who weren’t as fortunate as I. They end up in crashes that kill themselves or someone else. The driver’s ed course Connor and I began opens with several heartbreaking interviews with parents whose children died only a few weeks after getting their licenses.
Why am I not ready for Connor to drive? Watch those interviews, and you will understand.
Connor will drive someday. Just not this year. When the time comes, I’ll do everything in my power to prepare him to protect his life and the lives of others. But I’ll still be sick with fear.