As Our Children Learn to Drive

As our children are growing up, is there anything that can make a parent more nervous than when our children are learning to drive?  It was certainly not something I looked forward to as each of mine got closer to that age. (Though I do have to admit that I liked the idea of no longer being the family’s only chauffeur. )

And there’s nothing like being involved in a car accident to make a mom think about such things again, even years after they’ve all learned to drive.  More on last week’s accident in a moment; for now, suffice it to say, that miraculously, we all walked away from it without injuries.

Non-Driver to New Driver to Experienced Driver

After watching each of my children move from being a non-driver, to a new driver, to an experienced driver, I now believe that teaching them the mechanics of driving was the easy part. But, I pray, especially after this most recent accident, that they’ve all become not just adequate drivers, but also safe drivers.

I’m convinced that the longer we drive, the less we tend to think about how much more goes into being safe on the road than just knowing how to drive.  Last Wednesday evening we got caught in rush hour traffic as we returned to Louisville from a day trip to the aquarium near Cincinnati. Too many other cars were trying to exit the interstate at the same exit we were supposed to be getting off at, and the traffic in our lane slowed down until it had come to a complete halt. We stopped; the small vehicle behind us stopped; the SUV behind it stopped; the 18-wheeler did not; nor did the pickup truck behind it. Within minutes the vehicular dominoes had fallen, and all five vehicles, and the twelve people within them, were no longer heading anywhere.

An Injury-Free Accident

Amazingly, there was no loss of life. In fact, all twelve of us climbed out of the various vehicles without a scratch. But there were other consequences. Our vehicle was totaled. The small car that hit us was definitely totaled. The SUV behind him sustained quite a bit of damage in both the front and the back, but was a relatively new vehicle, so I don’t know what will happen with it. And then there was the damage to the 18-wheeler and the pickup truck; thousands of dollars more damage to those two, I’m sure.

One way or another I suspect that the insurance companies will eventually take care of some sort of payments for all of that. But will those of us with the two smaller cars be able to replace our vehicles for the money that we receive if they are considered totaled?  It is highly unlikely. On moment we had good, functioning vehicles, and the next moment we did not. How do the insurance companies make that situation right? By writing us checks for a small portion of their true value?

A Ruined Career?

And then there was the driver of the 18-wheeler. He made a mistake that has probably ruined his career. When he barreled into the back of the SUV, setting off the five-car wreck, he was holding a cell phone. (Something I’ve since been told is illegal for any driver of an 18-wheeler.) Whether he was texting, or just in some other way distracted by his phone, it resulted in his failure to realize what the traffic was doing, and he endangered his own life and at least eleven others. (And apparently, in Kentucky, where this happened, the fine if they decide he was texting and driving will be astronomical.)

Vs. A Ruined Evening

In just moments the evening plans of a dozen people turned upside down. Though, again, we were all very thankful that it was plans and not lives that were ruined. We were headed back to a friend’s house, looking forward to an early dinner and a quiet evening (doing things like writing a very different blog post!) The young man in the car behind us was heading home from work, and was a mere five minutes from his house when his car was struck. The SUV contained a family of four, on their way to basketball practice for the two teenage girls. And so it went on down the road. None of us thought we would be spending more than two hours by the side of the road that evening, giving statements to the police, and then eventually waiting for our mangled vehicles to be towed away.

The Critical Driving Lessons

And as I go over the accident in my mind, I wonder once again, as I have since my children started learning to drive more than twenty-five years ago, have they learned the driving lessons they needed to learn? And what would I consider the most important ones for them to remember?

Here is a short list of ones that came to mind as a result of this accident:

  • Will they pay attention to the cars around them? (The driver of the 18-wheeler was not; but a sixth driver, who had originally been between the 18-wheeler and the SUV, actually realized what was happening, and moved out of the way just in time to avoid being part of the accident.)
  • Will they drive at a safe speed? (Which, as we saw that evening, isn’t always the posted speed limit.)
  • Will they get off the road if they are tired? (Which I’ve heard can be as dangerous as driving drunk.)
  • And as they get older – will they stay off the road if they’ve been drinking? (Illegal, as well as unsafe.)
  • With as many older cars as we’ve owned – will their cars be safe and not have problems that cause an accident?
  • Will they wear their seatbelts? (I’m fairly sure we would not have all walked away from this accident without injuries if hadn’t been for our seatbelts.)
  • Will they remember not to tailgate? (The only reason we didn’t hit a car in front of us when we were hit from behind was because my daughter had not been following too closely.)
  • And, now more than ever, will they not drive distracted? (The rest of us may never know what caused that driver to be distracted, but he was clearly not paying attention, or the wreck would never have happened.)

Lessons Learned In An Accident

After an accident like this, I just want to reach out and hug each and every one of my children. And then to follow that up with doing my motherly thing. “Please be sure not to tailgate. And to remember that nothing you want to do with that phone, is worth the damage that can occur if you take your eyes off the road at just the wrong time. And, ultimately, it doesn’t matter if you are the best driver on the road, you are only as safe as the drivers around you – so pay attention to them!”

Be safe!