Blogs » Your Advocate: an editor's blog » How do you keep your child safe behind the wheel?


My baby girl learned to walk only yesterday. How can she already be learning to drive?

I dropped my 15-year-old off Monday night at a drivers education class and took a big gulp. As I stood in the hallway outside her classroom, she must have sensed my my bewilderment. She gave me a quick hug -- something she never does in public any more -- and told me I could go.

The teacher recited for me figures about kids needing five years of experience to be fully prepared as drivers. I have to admit I was a bit too overwhelmed to focus on what she was saying, but I responded with something like, "That sounds about right. She can drive when she's 21."

As I drove home, I thought back to when I was a 16-year-old behind the wheel. How do I teach her the caution that I didn't have then? How do I help her recognize the fools on the road around her? I didn't even want to think about the dangerous idiots drinking or texting -- no one can be fully prepared for that encounter.

She's much more responsible than I was at her age, so I suppose I shouldn't worry. But bad things happen. I can't even count the number of heart-breaking traffic stories I've encountered as an editor. Driving is the most dangerous thing we do.

When I was 16, I was running an errand in my parents' car, bringing home a 25-pound bag of dog food from a country feed store. I didn't think I was driving too fast as I crested a hill and hit a freshly laid patch of gravel. My driver's ed class (taught in school by the football coach, unlike today's private classes that don't even include behind-the-wheel instruction) hadn't prepared me for what to do when the wheel didn't respond like normal.

This was 1976, so I wasn't even wearing a seatbelt as the car rolled. I was in God's hands as I blacked out and flew around the car like that sack of dog food. I woke up to find myself lying on the roof in a topsy-turvy world. A man leaned over, peered through where the window used to be and asked how I was. My arm was bleeding from tiny shards of glass, but I was well enough to be terrified of my parents' reaction.

They surprised me by not even scolding me for totaling their car. As a father, I know now they were just grateful and relieved. I pray I'm as lucky with my kids.

With every passing milestone, we lose the ability to keep our children safe. From the moment they take that first step, they're putting themselves in harm's way. You can't blame a father for trying, though.

My father e-mailed me Monday this photo of bluebirds in his fountain. The picture has nothing to do with my post, but I wanted to share it nonetheless. Thanks, Dad, for reminding me of the beauty all around us.