With the new school year heading toward us like an out of control “One-stack Mack with a Window in the Back,” maybe it’s time to think about a few things involving highway and street safety. With the yellow busses, kids on bicycles, kids walking and 15-year-old drivers driving, safety should be on everyone’s mind.
Sometimes parents put far too much responsibility on their kid’s shoulders when it comes to letting them drive. Yeah, yeah, I hear you. “But MY kid is a good driver.” Hey, I was a kid once too, you know. I knew everything there was to know about driving a car, especially when there was an adult in the car with me.
When you’re 15 or 16 with a freshly minted DL in your pocket and Mom or Dad is in the car with you, you obey all the traffic signals, adjust your mirrors, click your seatbelt and make double sure you aren’t speeding. When Dad says, “Watch that kid on the bike,” your immediate reply, is “C’mon, Dad, I know how to drive. I saw him there a couple blocks ago.” As you go past “him” you realize “him” is a “her,” but you don’t fess up and Dad says nothing.
When you are a new driver you are deathly afraid you will make a mistake driving or not know the answer to a driving question posed by your parents. You get cold sweats thinking that if you don’t show that you know all there is to know about driving that your parents won’t let you drive until you reach the age of 30.
See, I’ve been there and done that.
As Sheriff Meier tells young people in his driving lectures, “I know most of you will speed. I know most of you will drink and drive before you reach adulthood. That’s a given and nothing I nor my department can do will change that fact. Just be sure you are wearing your seat belt.”
To my way of thinking you judge a person’s driving skills, not by how he/she drives when there are other people in the car, but how they drive when no one is watching. Think about that one. Not when they are taking a “can’t this old heap go any faster” dare or “go ahead and pass that truck or we’ll be late for football practice.” Or a myriad other taunts and dares given out by your mindless friend with a death wish, sitting over there in the passenger seat.
Over the past 13 years there have been far too many young people killed on our highways through lack of paying attention, cell phone usage while behind the wheel, drinking and driving, and just plain inexperience.
This is not something new to the motoring world. When I was 12 years old, a friend was killed out in Washington when his brother drove off a logging road in the mountains. A road he had absolutely no business on – but took a dare and killed my friend.
Another time when I was a freshman a young man got a couple six packs and went for a ride in his father’s brand-spankin’ new station wagon. He had a couple friends with him. One of them uttered those six deadly words “how fast will this car go?”
He didn’t see the horses over the next rise. It was night time. Of course, being 1956 there was no seat belt law and when the car hit the horses at about a hundred plus mph one of his passengers was thrown out of the car. She didn’t survive.
Another friend thought he could drive “just fine” after drinking a few beers at another friend’s birthday party. He wasn’t around to help us celebrate his own birthday.
This scenario plays out countless times across this entire nation every year, taking the lives of thousands of teenagers and seriously crippling many more.
Don’t let it happen to you. Think before you drive.
That’s it for now folks. Thanks for listening.
Virgil Vaupel is The Courier's Hinsdale correspondent.