My son turned sixteen not long ago, and like so many other sixteen year olds he is anxiously waiting for his driver’s license. I, on the other hand, do not share his enthusiasm. I admit that I am the more cautious parent and tend to worry more than I should. If given the opportunity, I could come up with the worst case scenario in any circumstance. My husband can attest to that. I am that parent who checks on the surrounding criminals making sure I memorize their face in case I see them around my kids, I wipe down grocery carts before I touch them, and say no to riding shotgun if the proper height requirement is not reached. Well, because airbags can kill you.
When I was my son’s age, I was not as cautious. In fact, I used to be a little daring pushing my four-door escort to the very limit, which was about 65mph. It shook if I pressed it any further. I did not wear a seatbelt, and I jammed my am/fm radio as loud as it could go. I was fearless and took many chances on the open road. That was until I heard the tragic news of a friend that I went to high school with, who was involved in a fatal automobile accident. She was only nineteen. To this day, I can still see her face and hear her laughter. Her death changed my outlook of life.
Christy and I shared yearbook together, and she was the first to welcome me to the staff when I became a new student my junior year at Perry Meridian High School. She was funny and quirky, making it known that she did not like whistling, and would pass out crackers to whoever felt the need to whistle in her presence. She loved her little brother, who was a freshman when we were seniors, and looked out for him. She was one of those rare breeds that knew who she was at such a young age. She was the kind of person I still aspire to be.
It was hard to come to the reality that Christy died. Pharos Tribune reported that Christy was trying to turn onto an intersection that semi-truck drivers nicknamed “Junkyard Junction” because of the high number of fatal crashes. Christy was the 12th person to die since the intersection opened in 1973. Shortly after Christy’s death, Christy’s parents went on a crusade to make the intersection safer for drivers, and their fight ended in a 2.5 million dollar reconstruction of the area. The intersection is safer now, but the sacrifice was all too great.
Sometimes life throws us curve balls to make aware how fragile it really is. After Christy’s death, I became more cautious and more aware of my surroundings especially when I drove. I wore my seatbelt and I drove the speed limit. I stopped taking life for granted. It was the least I could do in honor of Christy.
So, my personal fear of my son’s need to learn how to drive goes a little deeper than a fender bender. I know bad things can happen to good people, and accidents occur to the most cautious. One of the leading causes of teenage deaths in the nation is by automobile accidents. However, I also know the necessity, as a parent, to let go of the wheel and let my son experience life, and hope that he will remember not to text, eat, or follow to closely while driving. With that said, I may just keep a finger on the wheel for just awhile longer.