MATD the sequel

Published 11:15 pm Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Mother’s Against Teen Driving is an organization that I dreamed up several years ago in my hometown column because of the trials and tribulations I experienced with my firstborn’s introduction into the driving world. At 21, he has graduated to adult driver and is no longer a threat to himself and to the world. Well, not as much.

My unfortunate dilemma is that I had more kids. So, this column is dedicated to Mothers Against Teen Drivers the sequel, because my next one is out behind the wheel. Beware.

As I complained to my mom about the rigorous duty of riding with my permit laden son, she shared that her sister called her recently to thank her for what mom had done in teaching her siblings, her nephew, her own son and daughter to drive. Or rather, mom sat in quiet hysteria as the process played out, in the passenger seat; she rode with a novice driver. My aunt recently experienced this horrifying event with her grandchild and realized what my mom had been through all those years ago. Hence, the phone call out of the blue to thank her.

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Why do mothers have to be the passenger with the teenager? Dads get too excited. Dads are not good with losing control. Dads can’t handle the pressure. Mothers end up doing the nasty deed when most men run.

Here I am again, in the passenger seat, trying not to scream externally, while number two son is hunched over the steering wheel, dodging cars on the left, dodging the ditch and mail boxes on the right, and stopping either too short or not short enough. I may request valium for the next trip.

What is a parent to do? The kids have to practice before we unleash them into the world on their own. I sent him to driver’s ed for someone else to suffer the fear, someone who gets paid to ride with teen drivers and has their own break! But the driving time was vastly lower than required. It is once again left to me.

What will I do in nine years when the twins get their permit? I’m getting too old for this? My aging heart will not be able to stand two teen drivers at one time. At least Zach and Luke were spread out, just as Zach’s insurance has gone down for being an adult, Luke’s high risk premium kicks in!

My suggestion to the Safety Administration or whoever makes the decisions on the rules of who drives, how much they need to know, training techniques, and any stipulations for their driving license privileges is to create a simulator training ride just like they have in the mall, Disney World, and any tourist park in the country that simulates us riding in space, in planes, falling off cliffs, or going down mountain roads without breaks.

Simulate teen driving either as a thrill ride or for preparation of the naïve parent. This visual experience will train the teen for the perils of the road. In the ride you throw out a car that pulls out from nowhere, the family dog that decides to chase the cat across your path, the slick oil on the road, the speeding idiot who weaves in and out. All the stuff we experienced drivers take for granted as we use our cell phones, eat fast food, put on makeup and beat the children. You know……road skills.

The next step would be for every license bureau in the country to set up a large acre driving park. Each teen has to register so many hours driving the module of real life driving which would include parked cars, invisible bumps, glare, and different street situations. The teen can make the loop over and over again. This would give them a feel for the car and make them more confident once they venture out into the real world.

My next suggestion is to take away every car video game from their possession. In those games, your teen wrecks with no pain and their car after horrifically plowing into a stone wall at 90 miles per hour, recoups, and starts all over again. Either send a shock of serious pain through the fake video game steering wheel or make them deposit several thousand dollars for the repair, the hospital bill or the burial expenses needed for making such a serious mistake.

You will appreciate the safety tips that I suggest for all the teen missiles pointed directly at you. Remember prayer is a powerful source for safety features.

The worse mistake a parent makes is providing a teen with dangerous and deadly vehicles. No matter what the kid WANTS such as a GT Mustang or a big powerful truck, it is a potential deadly choice. So, if you could do without your kid for eternity, then by all means, get him or her what they want. Just remember, you are the parent and the decision you make is for everyone’s safety. Boring kills less and fewer cool points may prevent teen pregnancy.

This is the scary deal; about ten teens a day are lost. Crashes are the leading cause of death for American teenagers. Two-thirds of those killed did not buckle up. Sixty-five percent of those deaths included a teen passenger. Two out of three of these teens killed are males, but girls are catching up fast.

Rollovers account for 25 percent of all fatal crashes so put a teen who fails to buckle up into a SUV and one little swerve of the road can lead to certain doom.

Unfortunately, most parents are not financially able to buy a new car for our teen driver. But, as one expert said, buy the safest car you can afford, because you can always buy another car but you can’t buy another kid.

What vehicles do we put them in? Skip the trucks, the SUV’s, the compact cars and give the kid what he does not want, a boring mid-size or small (not compact) car as new as you can afford. Hopefully, it will be decked out with side-impact airbags, anti-lock brakes and all the newest safety features. The Toyota Camry, Honda Accord vehicles are the right size along with Consumer Reports’ recommended cars the Honda Civic, Ford Focus and Mazda3.

Teens do not have the skills (or the brains) to manage the highly maneuverable and small performance cars. Sporty cars have the highest death toll, such as the Ford Mustang, Acura RSX and the Pontiac Sunfire.

The younger the age, the higher the risk; so raising the age of driving can help save lives. The crash rate per mile driven is twice as high for a 16 year old as it is for an 18 to 19 year old. In states, where full licensure is limited to 17, some deaths are postponed but older drivers are more mature and can handle the driving responsibility.

The reason it appears is that human brains aren’t fully developed and capable of making informed decisions of risk until they reach 25 according to the National Institutes of Health. So why are we letting anyone under 25 behind the wheel? …Vote?….Drink? Have a credit card?

Since no one will pay attention to my cry to ban teen driving, we will all have to suck it up. Do our best to unleash the safest teen driver on the world and hope God protects fools and babies….our babies.

I can not imagine losing a child.

Watch out, my Luke is on the road, he may have scored a 34 on his ACT, made six A’s in a tough, nationally known high school in Huntsville, on a winning math team, but he made a 74 on his driver’s ed exam.

Mother’s unite!