Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

An Unintended Benefit

I used to laugh at my Grandmother a long time ago, her resistance to change and technology. The struggle to get her to purchase a microwave, a dishwasher, and a VCR was real, actually took years of convincing. And even after she made those purchases, her reluctance to use them never ended, while the rest of us in the house took advantage of the conveniences those devices provided.

Progressive car insurance runs television commercials starring “Dr. Rick,” who helps adults to prevent becoming their parents, a knock on the jokes we used to make about our parents. One thing, as I mentioned above, that I made fun of my elders about, was “accepting change,” how rigid and firm they were, like a microwave saving time cooking, or a dishwasher allowing you to do something else while a machine washed the dishes, or not missing a favorite television show. “Change is a good thing,” we would constantly encourage them.

Well, it is my turn. I need to admit that. A current feature of newer cars, the rear view camera, is supposed to improve a facet of driving, maneuvering in reverse, giving you a view from the angle below your trunk level. In theory, this is a good thing. It allows you to see a small child or a low profile sports car that you otherwise may not see with simple head turns, or the peek in the rear view mirror.

But in my forty plus years of driving, I don’t like it. I think it actually increases the likelihood of an accident. And I don’t want to use it. Just like my grandmother had her reasons, I have mine. I have become my parents.

One of the first things we are taught as children, is crossing the street. We are taught to look left, since that would be the first car coming at us, then look right, and take a final look left again. This same less would be used in learning to drive and having to turn left in an intersection. So far, so good, an act taking less than two seconds.

In backing out of a driveway, or actually, backing out of a parking spot, before these cameras, I do not recall ever, EVER, having an issue. Again, the act of turning my torso and head, left and right, back and forth as I backed out of a parking spot, never caused any issue, nor an accident. But now, my current vehicle has a camera above the license plate, a distraction to me. So now along with my looking back and forth, in between looking left and right, my eyes must now stop and focus on this screen. And watch out if you can afford the cars that have the “lights” in your side mirrors that illuminate yellow or red because of the proximity of any cars next to you. And that is just the mechanics of your own car. What if you have pedestrians, who, in spite of seeing the “reverse” lights of your car lit, still will cross behind your car, immediately behind it, as you are backing up? Or, coming down the row of cars, is another car speeding for either a parking spot or to exit, sees your “reverse” lights, but instead of waiting, proceeds to zoom around your car, bulging from its parking space?

Seriously, what used to be a simple act of seconds, now must be performed at a snail’s pace. So, yes, with all the bells and whistles of technology, no, this has not made things easier. I do not like it. I have become my parents.

As a parent myself, there is a rite of passage, much like having to take your teen to a concert of a popular, albeit, annoying music group that could not be further from your taste in music, teenage driving. It appears that I have been spared both having never had to take either of my daughters to a Justin Bieber or One Direction concert, and neither, obtaining their driver’s license. The latter, getting the driver’s license is not something I am necessarily celebrating, but I am looking at the situation practically.

In full disclosure, I did obtain my driver’s license at age 16, like most of my friends. My birthday in the Winter months in the northeast of the United States, I learned to drive in the most treacherous conditions. And in forty years, I have never had an accident that I have been responsible for. With the exception of some traffic tickets, overall, I am a very good driver, and more than capable of teaching my daughters to drive safely.

There are two things that have been on my mind about my daughters driving, one is a matter of being practical with money, making common sense, while the other, is more of a “you gotta let ’em go and grow up” step in parenthood.

While teenagers see a “grown up” view to being able to drive and more freedom to go where ever and whenever they want, parents can see their teens as a convenience, a “gopher” to run to the store to “go for this, go for that,” or some other errand.

However, from the moment that your teen gets the permit to learn to drive, your insurance company is the first to notify you, to pay an additional premium. Okay, to be expected for sure. But what if your teen will not be driving as much as you think? As in my situation, with one in college, and another entering, does it really make sense to pay for a full year of car insurance, when they will not even be behind the wheel with the exception of school breaks? This is on top of the costs of a vehicle, gas, and maintenance. It makes sense really, to defer throwing thousands of dollars away, until the completion of college, especially if you are on a tight budget.

Of course, the other concern, and as I alluded to, pertaining to “letting them go,” is a fear that many parents have, waiting for their teenager to get home, whether it be a school dance, a movie, concert, or a trip to the ice cream shop. There is no rest until you hear that front door close, followed by your teenager’s bedroom door.

As a teenager, I know many of my friends that had car accidents early on in their experience. Some were quite serious. More than a few involved fatalities. Consumed with grief, I can only speak for myself, it did not matter what they were doing at the time of the crash. Someone was either lucky, struggling for life, or dead.

And I would like to think that both of my daughters will be good drivers, some day. I am fortunate that driving has not necessarily been a priority for them. And thanks to travel requirements of a “real ID,” state ID’s (official photo ID’s resembling a driver’s license), even as an adult, will now have an official ID without it being a driver’s license.

Which leads me back to my main argument, a fiscal decision to put off getting a driver’s license. Sure, if either of my daughters were going right into the work force after high school, that would be a different situation as transportation would become an issue. But going to college, and living on campus, there is no true need for a license. Insurance, gas, maintenance, and possibly a car payment, at a time when every penny counts towards. This “excuse” is not only convenient for me as a parent, but practical.

And that is how I look at it. I have made the adjustments necessary for my concerns. The dangers will still be there some day, as they are likely to get their licenses after college, perhaps even sooner. But it has bought more time. It is that same ability with logic, that I now “back in” to my parking spaces as opposed to pulling in, having to back out. The safest and smartest way to see things, are if they are right in front of you.

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