Driving Lessons


No, I haven’t taken up golf. I am learning to drive a car, again. My instructor is my 17 year old daughter.

After more than 3 decades of experience behind the wheel, I’ve acquired some bad habits. I’m not proud to admit this, but I realize that I must force myself to confront an unpleasant truth: I need to be a better role model for my teen driver. I need to unlearn these habits if I am to be a more credible teacher.

Sitting in the passenger seat, I admire her total focus and thorough grasp of the rules of the road. “Perfect. I can see the tires touching the road,” she says, as she comes to a smooth stop, leaving plenty of distance between us and the car ahead of us.  While quick to grumble about drivers riding “in my trunk,” I know I’m also following too closely in busy Metro Atlanta traffic.


We are on our way to the pediatrician’s office. Her younger brother is in the back seat, because the law requires an experienced driver supervise her driving until she clocks enough hours of practice to convert her learner’s permit to an actual license. If she waits until her 18th birthday, she can get an unrestricted license. She is patient, in a way I was not at her age.

After her examination, the nurse hands me a thick packet along with a copy of her immunization records. The packet contains helpful information from the American Academy of Pediatrics, including “A Message to Parents of Teen Drivers.”

The following are ways you can help keep teens safe on the road:

Be a role model. If you expect your teen to drive safely, you need to drive safely, too.

— Always wear your seat belt. (Okay, I’m 100% compliant with this rule.)

—Don’t drink and drive. Never allow any alcohol or illegal drugs in the car. (100% compliant, of course!)

—Don’t eat (guilty), drink (guilty), talk on your cell phone (hands-free only, but still guilty), or do anything else that could distract you from driving. (changing the radio station, fast-forwarding the podcast: guilty and guilty.)

I wonder if the American Academy of Pediatrics installed a surveillance camera in my car when researching and preparing this message. If so, did it capture the moment when she asked if we could listen to music and I balked, claiming the radio is an unnecessary distraction?

I smile, remembering her reply. She said, without rancor, “Ima, I’m a less-distracted driver than you are.”

The next time she asks, I turn on the radio. I try not to let it distract me during the remainder of my driving lesson.


Comments (6)

I read this with equal parts admiration and embarrassment. I, too, am guilty of distracted driving, of trying to use my time in the car productively – as if getting from place to place isn’t productive enough. It made me think, “How very High Meadows of you to encourage your daughter’s driving expertise by placing her in the role of teacher, you in the role of student.” It’s courageous and powerful on a couple of levels. I am inspired.

Oh, sometimes I’m guilty of calling you from the car! We can encourage each other to be more focused, less distracted. But then when would we talk?!

You make me laugh. I used to say the same thing to my son about the radio and I’d even ask him to hold all questions when I was driving around pedestrians (such as, at his school) while he’d complain bitterly about having to wait. I love what they can teach us and what they mirror for us too. Lovely post.

Thanks, Tonia! I knew I wasn’t the only one…

Oh, Pamela. Good one! I have to admit to more than a couple of these offenses myself. This was fun to read!

Thanks, Denise! I’m sure, like me, you’re only guilty of the minor offenses…

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