We’ve survived teaching all three of our kids how to drive. And I’m proud to say that, clearly, we lived to tell the tale, although I do remember thinking to myself several times, “This is really stupid. There are people who do this for a living. Why don’t we hire one of them? At least then someone in this family will survive.” I might not have survived my own driving lessons, however, had my mother continued attempting to teach me. In my case, had you asked me before our kids were ready to get behind the wheel, my answer to “Should your mother teach you how to drive?” would have been a resounding “Hell, no!”
A little background: when I grew up, the state of New Jersey required you to be 17 to get your learner’s permit. Incredibly, there was no restriction on when you could return to take your road test and get your actual license; the minimum timeframe was determined by the timing of the next available appointment. Back then, it generally took about six weeks, which means that the average 17-year-old had a glorious six weeks of practice before being set free to drive a 2,500-pound death machine. Theoretically, you could have gotten your license with one day of practice, assuming someone else canceled and you passed the road test.
We Arrive at the DMV
There I was, 17 years old and at the DMV with my mother. Since I’d already been to college orientation, I was feeling (and acting) even bigger for my britches than the average 17-year-old. Permit in hand, I got in the driver’s seat to drive us the 20 minutes home. Note that this drive home included highway driving (!!!). Picture getting on the highway with a complete novice behind the wheel; my mother probably should have won a Purple Heart just for that. Her bravery, of course, is well-documented; recall that she was the woman behind the Seam Ripper Incident.
Given this entire scenario, from my seam-ripping mother handing me the keys to the absurdity, in hindsight, of the way the state awarded our licenses, it’s remarkable that things went “as well” as they did. Luckily, at least, it was daylight. According to the National Safety Council, “…night driving substantially increases risk for teens. It is an incredibly dangerous time for them to drive. Mile for mile, 16 and 17-year-old drivers are about three times as likely to be involved in a fatal car crash at night than during the day—and they don’t have to be out super late.”
Your Mother May Substantially Increase Your Risk
I’m here to argue that point. I’d wager that “driving with your mother substantially increases risk for teens.” We fought – about my driving! – the entire way home, including while I was going 60 mph on the Garden State Parkway. She shrieked. I pouted. She threw her arm in front of me to stop the crash she imagined was imminent. I shrieked.
And on, and on…20 minutes of two shrieking Greeks barreling down the road. How no one was killed or injured, I don’t know.
We walked in the house, shaken but uninjured. My mother turned to me and said, “That is the LAST time I get in a car with you until you have your license!”
“Good!” I retorted.
I found other people to teach me how to drive. Mostly, they were teenage boys, which might explain my driving style.
Should Your Mother Teach You How to Drive?
Given my own PTSD, earned at the hands of both my mother and my kids, I’m going to say “no.” There are professionals who do this for a living. Clearly, they have nerves of steel, and I bet they’re worth every penny. So, in the end, I have to agree with Sheila Dunn, writing for Scary Mommy in “Why I Won’t Teach My Teen to Drive.”
What about you? Did you teach your kids to drive, or are you planning to? What do you most remember about learning how to drive? Leave a comment and let me know, and be safe out there!⧉