Driving Privilege vs Driving Right

Driving in America has turned into a sort of right of passage. It’s not a new one or anything. Kids in all 48 contiguous continental, as well as Alaska and Hawaii, have for decades been jumping up in front of the issuing offices of their states’ Department of Motor Vehicles in excitement, holding proof of their official welcome to mobility in the form of a 3.5″ x 2″ card with their worst photos ever taken and the last time their true body weights are given sealed under laminate. And here I am, just now teaching my son to drive at the age of 20.

Most who know us assume that it is because we lived overseas for so long. When we got back to the US, my oldest son was 18 and we just had more important things to deal with. Not so. I consciously chose to not get my kids licensed at 16. My second son is 16 and he has begged and pleaded and cajoled and whined for his license. NOPE. He finally told me that it was his right to drive now that he is 16 and I told him the truth. It is a PRIVILEGE to drive at 16. He has no rights until he is 18.

At 18 they have the right to drive. They also have the right to buy their own damn cars and pay for the gas, maintenance, and…*BIG WORD HERE*…..INSURANCE on said cars. My 16 yr old said that my policy comes back to my being a cheapskate. Maybe. But I have rules. And when it comes to driving, these rules are going to make my kids the safest drivers around. You know why? I don’t stop at a 2-year delay.

Did you know that in the state of Texas, in order to obtain a license to fly a single-engine airplane, you have to complete a minimum of 40 hours of flight training including 20 hours of flight training with a licensed instructor pilot with a mandatory 3 hours of cross-country flight instruction and 3 hours of night flying instruction with 10 take-offs and 10 landings for each, and 3 hours of instruction on flight by use of instruments, plus solo flight hours? All this is prior to taking a flight test for the actual pilots license. Usually, that 40-hour minimum is ignored as the average pilot completes between 70 and 100 flight training hours in order to get the experience needed in order to pass that test. With statistics for traffic accidents on the ground being so much greater than the statistics for single-engine airplane accidents, wouldn’t it make sense to have a required number of training hours behind the wheel with a licensed driver as instructor prior to letting our kids drive these 1-ton + pieces of metal, glass and rubber?

Well, that’s the rule in our house. And while I sat in the passenger seat of our van in the parking lot of a closed-down bar in our city last week, explaining to my 20 yr old behind the wheel, why I believe that proper training and confidence in the drivers seat is necessary, he agreed with me. He knows he’s not a young kid anymore and that he needs to learn to drive since he is going to start college in the fall. But he knows that it isn’t about “freedom” to get away from the house and hang out with his friends. He realizes that he is responsible for the control of this large piece of equipment that can harm him and others if he doesn’t take it seriously. And he knows that he is 4 years behind his friends in learning to drive and if he’s embarrassed about having me drop him off or pick him up from hanging with his friends or from the college or from wherever, he doesn’t show it. He always seems grateful that I don’t mind taking him places. He also takes the whole driving thing very seriously and actually thanked me for taking the time to require him to log in “drive time” hours for instruction because he wants to know that he is competent as a driver before being allowed to just take the wheel and go wherever he wants without experience.

The 16 yr old calls him a suck up and thinks that my driving rules are part of my being a control freak since he is fully capable of driving thanks to all the years of practice behind the keyboard playing a PC version of video games like GTA. Pffft. Yeah, right.

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