Don’t Fear The Teenage Driver

2015-04-Life-of-Pix-free-stock-photos-st-madeleine-farm-hangar-campaign-veronique-marierWe bought the car when my wife was pregnant with our son because we thought it would make a good family car. I never imagined that 15 years later I would still be driving it and that the kid who helped break it in would want it for himself.

I remember sitting in the dealership wondering how many kids would one day fill the car and desperately trying to figure out if I would be able to buy a house for all of us.

Funny thing is a short time later I switched jobs and quadrupled my income so the house that seemed impossible to buy showed up the next year.

Fifteen years later the house and the decade we lived there is just a memory and the baby who was in utero has become a teenage boy who wants to know why I don’t understand how difficult his little sister can be.

In between telling me she won’t stop bugging him he says he doesn’t want me to get rid of my car because he wants it to be his.

It is a not a horrible idea but it is unlikely that I’ll hold onto the car.

Dad Needs A New Car

I started test driving cars a couple of weeks ago. The plan is/was to take some time to figure out what I really want and then wait a short while for the 2016 models to start coming in so that I could get a better deal on a 2015.

What I didn’t think about was how I would react.

What I didn’t think about was how every new car I have driven feels like it is a 1000 times better than my car. I feel kind of silly saying that because it should have been obvious to me.

Modern technology, lumbar support, seats that have coolers and heat warmers and a million other little details make it hard for my current steed to compete.

All it has are memories, a good run of safety and reliability and the fact that it was paid off years ago.

Those are solid traits that merit thought and consideration but they aren’t enough to quell the now burning desire to trade those wheels for something new.

But I am not sure if the safety and reliability I have long enjoyed are solid enough for me to be willing to pass it along to a teenage driver.


“Dad, if they are no going to give you a good deal on the trade-in you ought to just hold onto the car and give it to me.”

I nod my head, smile and tell him I am almost 100 percent certain I’ll trade it in and use whatever they give me for it as part of my down payment.

“Dad, wouldn’t it be cheaper to just fix the car and give it to me.”

Part of me is pleased he is finally talking about driving because until recently it wasn’t a big deal to him. I never understood why he didn’t start talking about it sooner.

A driver’s license was one of those things that was never far from my teenage mind or my friends. The freedom we pictured that came with a license and a car was huge.

A while back I asked the boys if they were having similar experiences with their kids and they all told me they were having similar experiences.

Shared ambivalence among the teens made me wonder what had changed between now and when we were kids. I figure it has to do with how parents have collectively been more protective of our children than our parents were of us.

That is not to say our parents loved us less than we love our kids because I don’t believe that is true.

But what is true is that we were far more likely to walk to school, play outside and do things that were unsupervised and unscheduled than our children are.

One of the best things I ever did for my kids was to give them the opportunity to walk to and from school. It helped them gain confidence and mature.

But I am not sure if the safety and reliability I have long enjoyed are solid enough for me to be willing to pass it along to a teenage driver.Click To Tweet

My first car was a ’69 Dodge Dart Swinger and the only thing it was missing was a turret.

That sucker was a tank.

Ok, it was missing far more than a turret. It didn’t have air conditioning, power steering or almost any of the modern comforts we expect cars to have now.

It was just a giant hunk of steel wrapped around an engine, but that hunk of steel helped ease my parents’ concerns about me on the road.

The funny thing about it is that if you compared its safety ratings and records against the Honda I drive now I am confident my Honda would have the superior record.

Technically it should be perfectly fine for my kid to drive, but because he is my kid and I worry I want him to have a different car.

I am not talking about a brand new car because I don’t think would be appropriate but a car that isn’t 15 years old should be a better choice.

A used vehicle that is newer than something that rolled off the line in 2000 should have a few more safety features and benefits that my current one doesn’t have.

Don’t Fear The Teenage Driver

“Dad, I am going to be careful. I know that as a new driver I might make mistakes or have an accident, but I am going to be careful.”

I don’t tell him about all of the accidents I have seen or even mention any that I have been a part of. I don’t tell him all of the stories I know because now isn’t the time to get into it.

Instead I promise that when the time comes we’ll do our best to make sure he gets time behind the wheel.

“You become a better driver by practicing and learning how to focus on the road and what is happening around you. I worry less about your focus than I do about what happens when you encounter other drivers on the road.”

“Dad, don’t fear the teenage driver. Embrace him.”

I am working on it, I am just glad I have a little more time before I have to figure it all out.

Fifteen years went by in the blink of an eye.

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  1. Carpool Goddess October 13, 2015 at 11:14 am

    Nothing short of a tank feels safe enough to me, but there would be no place to park something that large in our driveway. The scariest thing in the world was watching my kids drive out the driveway for the first time. They’re in their 20s now and I still get nervous. Sigh.

    • Jack Steiner October 13, 2015 at 8:45 pm

      I can appreciate that. I imagine it will take a good long while before I am relaxed about my kids driving. Got a while before the little one can, but that might not be such a blessing.

      She’ll probably start right about the time I begin to feel comfortable with him having a license.

  2. Larry October 13, 2015 at 8:51 am

    First off, I’m in the same position in regards to wanting a new car. My Honda is a 2005 with just over 100,000. It still is running fine but it is looking worn. Anyway, the $ is not in the budget for a new one, so I’ll keep on driving it.
    I think you are being overprotective here which I have not seen in the past. If you can afford to hold on to the second one, I think your son has a good idea.
    Btw, I was anxious to drive but my friends were even more so. I rode shotgun alot!

    • Jack Steiner October 13, 2015 at 10:44 am

      It is not just the cash, it is trying to figure out where to park three cars. We’re short on space. I think as we get closer and the big guy starts to learn how to drive it will become easier or so the theory goes.

  3. ihopeiwinatoaster October 13, 2015 at 4:36 am

    Good stuff, Jack. Same thing around here. My boys are pushing eleven, so I’m a long ways off, but they both really want to drive my F-150 someday. The truck we signed the papers for and went straight to a doctor’s appointment and found out we were having twins. Memories and cars… what a beautiful thing to write about.

    I really enjoyed this. You speak from a point of wisdom that I see less and less of as blogging becomes overtly commercial. It makes me sad that wisdom, honesty and tenderness seem fresh and innovative when, in actuality, they are the antecedents of all we do.

    Peace to you, keep writing, I’ll read it, I’ve still got much to learn.

    • Jack Steiner October 13, 2015 at 10:00 am

      Hi Bill,

      Thank you. We’re all learning as we go, but some of us are more conscious and conscientious about it.

      It is a good thing, this constant learning, helps us grow and that makes us into better people or so the concept goes.

      I think there are still quite a few of us out here who are in to blogging for the sake of writing and capturing memories.

  4. Elizabeth Pantley October 12, 2015 at 1:29 pm

    I think traffic is heavier these days & roads are more complex — more cars on the road mean more problems. Kids don’t just have to be good drivers – they have to watch every single other driver on the road. It’s another scary milestone for parents. As always, more freedom means more responsiblity.

    • Jack Steiner October 13, 2015 at 8:09 am

      I don’t know if there is more traffic but there are more distractions than when we were learning how to drive. Too many bright and shiny objects for drivers and far more reason for our kids to be extra wary and focused on what they are doing.

  5. Kathy Radigan October 12, 2015 at 1:05 pm

    Wow, my husband and I are at the exact same spot you are. We too bought the care my husband now uses as his station car when I was pregnant with our son, 16 years ago. And though it works fine to get my husband to the train station each morning neither one of us feels it’s appropriate for our kid to drive in. And yes, I totally remember some of the cars my friends drove, but I do think we know more now. Good luck!!!

    • Jack Steiner October 13, 2015 at 7:14 am

      Hi Kathy,

      It is just so surreal to me to be in this position now. I always knew and expected it would come, but it feels like it happened a bit faster than I would have thought.

      Your comment about a station car made me smile. Some years ago I wouldn’t have known what you were talking about but since my little sister moved to New Jersey I have learned about things like that.

      That is what happens when you don’t have much public transportation.

      Anyway, I guess we are all in the process of trying to figure the best and safest way to move our children from pedestrian to driver.

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