Last updated on November 5, 2019 at 09:07 am
I was 16 years old and had completed Driver’s Ed. I passed my written driver’s exam and a vision screening and paid the student permit fee. I was as ready as I ever would be. Early one Sunday morning, my father drove me to the empty parking lot at the Livingston Mall. He parked the car and got out, handing me the keys. As I eagerly hopped into the driver’s seat, he nervously walked around to the passenger side and reached for his seat belt.
I did not appreciate my dad’s anxiety. As he sat beside me, clutching the armrest, I grew annoyed. There was some yelling (him). And a few tears (me). I didn’t understand why he reacting to every little thing just because I was a new driver. I was just fine and fully believed that the only thing holding me back was my overbearing father. All of my friends were driving. What was the big deal?
The Big Deal
According to a AAA Teen Driver Study, teens have the highest crash rate of any group in the United States. And when friends are in the car, the statistics multiply. The study cites that compared with having no passengers, having one passenger younger than age 21 (and no older passengers) was associated with a 44% increase in a 16- or 17-year-old driver’s risk per mile driven of being killed in a crash. Having two passengers younger than age 21 was associated with a doubling of a driver’s risk of being killed in a crash, compared with having no passengers. Having three or more passengers younger than age 21 was associated with roughly a quadrupling of a driver’s risk of being killed in a crash, compared with having no passengers.
At the age of 16, I dismissed my parents as overprotective and thought that it was terribly unfair that I was not allowed to drive with groups of friends in the car or after dark. Today, I look at my 6 year old son, and I see my parents’ behavior in a whole new light. The thought of my son getting his license, or his friends getting their licenses, is terrifying. The memory of my father’s cries to “Watch the road!” seems less critical and more an expression of just how much he cared. It took a while, but I finally hear him loud and clear. Thank you, Dad.
Plymouth Rock in New Jersey would like to wish all Dad’s a Happy Father’s Day!