I remember starting to drive. The sheer wonder of real freedom; the intoxicating joy of self-determination. There is no other feeling like it and it is truly one of our society's great "rites of passage." I remember providing a ride to church for two beautiful sisters. And cruising PCH. And cruising Bellflower Boulevard. And cruising Whittier Boulevard. And the drive-in burger joints with waitresses on roller skates and trays hanging on the car door. And taking myself out for a $2.00 chicken dinner at Norwalk Square before Sunday night church, just because I could. And drive-in movies with Don, Ron and Steve. A teen driver begins to feel like an adult and the fact that they are allowed to drive confirms that their family and even the state government recognizes them as such.
I also remember my first crash while making a left turn in Norwalk. And my second while yelling at two girls from my biology class who were walking down the street in Artesia. And the day I should have died in Montebello after dropping my mom off at work, but purely by chance survived by a matter of, literally, six inches. And the time I backed my mother's car into a ditch after a pool party (keep this quiet; she still doesn't know about it).
At all ages, the quality of our driving is determined by a handful of factors. Training, character and maturity are the most significant determinants of how a person will drive. "Maturity" is not just a theoretical term - it actually refers to a level of brain development.
Edited excerpt from a press release by Knight Ridder Newspapers:
The point at which we become what is normally referred to as "mature" as in "mature enough to drive" is normally reached in our late teens, unless it is delayed due to alcohol or other drug abuse. When we reach our 40's, our reaction time starts to slow and at about age 50, mental deterioration begins, in varying degrees, for all of us.
Most 16-year-olds are maturity-challenged' simply because their brain is not finished developing and they therefore must be very carefully monitored if they are allowed to drive.
As you, the parent (under the law, the liable party') contemplate
whether your teen should drive, there is really only one question
to answer - Are they mature enough to do it responsibly?'
Whether it will be convenient for the family to have another driver;
whether you are tired of providing transportation to the limitless
number of places a normal teenager must go; whether they will whine
and nag incessantly - none of these are acceptable reasons to allow
another immature driver on the road. If your teen is involved in
illegal activities (graffiti, gangs, shoplifting, weapons, etc.)
or is already participating in detrimental activities (alcohol or
other drug use, smoking, extreme sports without proper safety equipment,
sex), they are simply not yet mature enough to drive. You certainly
do not want to be on the hook' for all of the damage they
can cause. Better, for them and for you, to have them wait until
they are 18.
We all worry when our kids are on the road and we aren't there to watch them. But, here are some guidelines for you to consider:
You must be willing to trust your 16- or 17-year-old, not only with your emotional well-being, but with your family's financial well-being. Maybe one or two alternate forms of transportation should be considered.
"When you sign for them to be on the road, it's all on the line."
Oh, one final item - whaddaya say we wait for the Corvette, Firebird, Camaro, supercharged CRX, etc. until they can afford the payments and insurance themselves? They have enough of a challenge overcoming their hormones and not-yet-finished brain without the additional challenge of too much horsepower. If you need more convincing on this topic, simply do the research.