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A Missive to American Parents

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On: Mon, Dec 16, 2013 at 2:15PM | By: Nick Bakewell

A Missive to American Parents

As I write this, it’s far too late and I should more than probably be asleep. I can’t, however, because of a few bits of news that I saw earlier today. Namely, that a couple of young folk were recently responsible for car-related deaths that gained media attention due to some Twitter posts, etc. It’s the kind of story you see all over the internet every day: someone did something horrible and then tweeted something entirely unrelated, which means they are, in essence, the devil. Jalopnik’s Patrick George posted a preliminary lambasting of the American drivers-ed system, which I fully endorse: receiving (I won’t say earning) a driver’s license in this country is far too easy, and a lot of car-related deaths could be prevented by more comprehensive, rigorous education.

I’m not writing this as a missive to various departments of transportation; however: I want to address parents here, especially those of children who may soon be or are already learning to drive. I know that in most states, the DOT requires that learners spend at least some hours in the car with a parent or guardian during their automotive education, as the state can’t be bothered to supply individual instructors to watch kids drive around for 50-some hours. Makes sense: learning to drive a car is a big leap in terms of personal freedom, especially in a country so built around the car, and an equally sizable responsibility. In essence, the learner in question is being granted the right to drive around in a 2-odd-ton hunk of metal, powered by a repeating series of explosions, glued to the road by four measly patches of rubber at speeds of up to 85mph (on this one road in Texas; I know, it’s awesome here). When you think about the fact that only 34,080 people were killed in car accidents last year, that’s pretty remarkable.

But please, parents, take some time to try to impress onto your kids the importance of safe driving. Safe driving doesn’t mean slow, or overcautious, or never parallel parking. It means being aware, focusing on the task at hand, and most of all remembering the responsibility that you have to the rest of the world when you’re behind the wheel. Driving doesn’t have to be a grave or scary undertaking; it’s a huge part of everyday life. But it is a responsibility.

Sure, listen to music, talk to your friends. It’s fine to make a phone call. But maybe don’t text while you’re driving? Don’t juggle your breakfast and your homework and your toothbrush. Please don’t drink and drive. I promise that your parents will be happier if you call them to come get you rather than if you drove home drunk and hurt yourself or someone else.

So, to reiterate: parents, I’m not talking about scare tactics or enforcing draconian strictures. Driving is one of life’s great pleasures. But for all our sakes, and especially your progeny’s, teach your kids to drive safely and attentively. The world will be a better place for it.


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