5 Things That Made Me Feel Safe as a Teen Driver

We’ve all been there: that I-want-to-cry moment when you get in the car for the first time after passing your driver’s test. For months, you have to drive with the rents, but all of the sudden you’d do anything to have her sitting next to you even if she’s going to scream and grip the car door handles until her knuckles go white every time you go 1mph over the speed limit. Reminiscing, I’ve distinguished 5 simple safety-tips my parents always advocated that I found comforting as a new driver.

1. Do you have a hat?

Once October began, my dad would not let my brother or me drive off without having a jacket, boots, hats, mittens and a shovel in the car. Even after being asked “Do you have a hat?” at least three times before I pulled out of the driveway, with all the hustle and bustle of being a teenager, I often forgot. One day, I opened the trunk to put my golf clubs in and noticed my dad had stocked TWO milk crates with hats and mittens and put them in my trunk. Now, I understand his intention, but I drive a Corolla, so there is no way I could fit enough people in my car where I would need 14 hats and 17 gloves – There were only 3 matching pairs, the majority of them were old, bachelor work gloves. That being said, it was always nice to know I had warm clothes in the case that I had to spend a snowy afternoon on the side of the road.

2. I thought I was getting a pet duck.

Let me explain. Ever since I was about 13 years old, I’ve loved ducks. That year for my birthday every single one of the 9 friends who came to my birthday party got me a different duck stuffed animal—no joke, my bed became a plush petting zoo! Anyway, I was again going to load something into my trunk when I noticed two 40lb bags of corn taking up the entirety of it (not cool, Dad). My duck-obsessed-self jumped to the conclusion that this could only mean one thing, I was getting pet ducklings. All smiles, I confronted my dad, saying I knew what was up. I couldn’t have been more wrong. My car is front wheel drive, my dad had put the corn there to keep my back end from fishtailing when the roads got icy. Although I would have loved a pet duck, I’m even more thankful for the silly things my dad did to keep me safe on the road.

3. Hunter’s Safety made me a better driver.

Although seemingly unrelated, my Hunter’s Saftey class played a pivotal role in my early years behind the wheel. I was driving home from practice one night when a deer, big enough to get a hunter’s heart rate up if it was spotted from the stand, ran out into the road ahead of me. I had very little time to react, but I had remembered my camouflage-dressed instructor from Hunter’s Safety preaching, “Tap tap tap, to get yourself out of the trap”. According to my instructor, the most tragic outcomes of people hitting a deer have been a result of the deer popping up onto the hood of the vehicle and then through the windshield, trapping the driver. If you tap your brakes three times instead of slamming on them as we are inclined to do, the deer is much more likely to go to the side of the vehicle upon impact. Thanks to Hunter’s Safety, the damage done to my car was minimal and I walked away shaken up but without injury. When I returned home and I sprinted to my dad for comfort, he jokingly responded, “Well you finally got your first deer.”

4. Her slippers were soaked.

To this day, I can’t remember a time I’ve bid my mom goodbye and she didn’t respond back, “No texting!” as I got in my car to drive off. Whether she was reading Good Housekeeping, watching HGTV, blowdrying her hair, or eating her old fashioned oats with blueberries and brown sugar, Mom would always pause to enforce those two words. One time, she even chased after me through our unshoveled driveway to tell me not to text and drive. I appreciate her repetition and it stuck, I am now that friend. The one who yells at my friends to put their phone down when they drive. Keeping a loved one safe is worth soaking your slippers. 

5. I was kinda a big deal.

I was old for my grade, so I was one of the first to get my license. This also meant I was the one who drove everyone to Chipotle after school between sports. Eventually, however, all my friends got their licenses and they owed me – Junior and Senior year I hardly ever drove. Having a AAA card comforted me, especially when riding with friends to Friday night football games that went all over the state. I knew that if their car broke down, as long as I had my AAA card with me, we’d be assisted. Not to mention, my friends thought I was pretty cool for having another card in my wallet other than my student ID. 

 

In conclusion, my advice to parents of new drivers is to be redundant and learn the tricks. There are so many ways to ensure your kid’s safety, but their feeling comfortable driving is equally as important. Having confidence behind the wheel is key to safe driving. On the other hand, my advice to teen drivers is to let your parents do dorky things like fill your trunk with feed corn. They know what’s best. And finally, no texting!

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