January 14, 2014 by

My life as a mother is entering a whole new level of scary.

I’ve dealt with the baby turning blue, the disappearing toddler, and the fear of football injuries. But now, I’m getting ready to deal with the really frightening part of being a parent.

My oldest is getting his driver’s license in January.

It’s not that he won’t be a good driver. I truly believe he will be very focused and conscientious behind the wheel. I have to believe that. His father and I have invested in the teen driver training offered through the National Safety Council, so I know he’s getting the very best training possible.

He’ll be in class for twenty hours and behind the wheel with a certified instructor for another five. I take comfort in believing in this highly regarded program. I believe its coaches will remember all of the important things that I might forget to teach about the rules of the road. I mean, I’ve been driving for decades, and sure, I could show him how to operate a vehicle. But I don’t remember all those rules that I could once recite verbatim. So, I trust the experts on this one.

They tell me that teens who take driver’s education are less likely to be involved in an accident or get a ticket. So, the mom in me hangs on to that too. Because unlike the courage that it took for me to drop him off at daycare the first time, or to let him ride his bike alone, or later—to allow him to walk to the mall with friends—this is different. This is life or death stuff.

While I have confidence that he will learn how to be a good driver, I’m more concerned about him being a good defensive driver. I want him to know he really needs to watch out for the other guy. Because it could be the other guy that’s the real danger.

There will be other people out there driving who maybe aren’t as focused and conscientious as I hope he will be. They might be daydreaming. Or on the phone fighting with their girlfriend. Or, Lord help me, texting. And all it takes is one fraction of a second for a mistake to take away someone who means more to me than life itself.

The National Safety Council says that in 2012, teenage drivers accounted for almost one out of every four crashes in the state—and over 10 percent of all traffic deaths. Ten percent! And only six percent of Nebraska’s drivers are teens. That’s a lot of moms, dads, and family members with devastated, broken hearts. Every time I hear of another teen killed or hurt, it breaks my heart too. I just can’t grasp the pain that family is experiencing.

But now, it’s my turn to hand over the keys to my child. He’s excited about new freedoms he sees coming his way. And his pattern of being responsible and making good choices makes me feel encouraged about the kind of driver he will become. But still, there’s that nagging concern about statistical odds and life-changing moments. I guess that’s just the next step of parenting worry.

So let’s all be careful out there. I’ll keep an eye out for your kids, if you’ll keep an eye out for mine. Thanks.

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