May 19, 2013
Written by Joe Pisani
Wednesday, 22 August 2012 11:02
I'll never forget that fateful Sunday afternoon when I let my oldest daughter get behind the wheel for the first time while the rest of the family cowered in the back seat and pleaded to get inside the trunk.
In those days, teaching your daughter to drive was the indisputable responsibility of the family patriarch, so I put my best foot forward and gave her lessons in the tradition of Robert Young on "Father Knows Best."
"Ease up on the clutch, Dear."
"Slowly apply pressure on the accelerator, Honey."
"LOOK OUT! YOU'RE GONNA HIT THAT *%#$*%@! DOG, YOU DIMWIT!!!"
So much for Father knowing best. The good news is the dog lived to see another day, and I resolved to be more patient, at least until she drove down a hill in Naugatuck Valley that led to the proverbial fork in the road where you could either go left (to the mall) or right (to the park) — or straight (off the cliff). She chose the cliff.
"STOP!!!!," I yelled. "WE'RE GOING OVER!!!"
There was a lot of screaming in the back seat, but the story had a happy ending because she exercised good driving skills and stopped five inches from the guard rail. (I never drove down that road again, at least with her.)
Everyone said a prayer of thanksgiving, and I handed in my resignation. My career as a driving instructor ended that day. It was the first and last time I tried to teach my daughters to drive. Instead, I delegated that responsibility to my wife, my sisters, Sears Driving School and anyone daring enough to get in the car with them while I stayed home and prayed the rosary for the safety of countless anonymous pedestrians, cats, dogs, woodland creatures and anything else that might be unfortunate enough to be in their path.
The crazy thing is that even now when I drive with my oldest daughter, I have a tendency to start screaming once or twice or 10 times. Teaching teenagers to drive should be an opportunity for bonding between parents and children, but I clearly failed that lesson in Fatherhood 101.
Looking back, it's probably good I gave the job to people who were better equipped for the challenge because you can't underestimate the importance of good driver's education, particularly when you consider car accidents are the No. 1 killer of teenagers.
A study on teen driving by the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia concluded, "The majority of teen driver crashes are due to inexperience, compounded by distractions, such as cell phone use and peer passengers, and risky or aggressive driving behaviors, such as speeding, alcohol use, and not wearing seat belts."
The risk of a fatal accident doubles when a new driver has another teenager in the car and increases five times when there are more teens.
The study also showed that 51% of teens who were passengers said they didn't always wear a seatbelt; 28% drove in a car with someone who had been drinking during the past month; and 10% drove after drinking at least once in the past month.
When it comes to driver's ed, some lessons have to be learned the first time and not learned the hard way — or it could be too late.
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