Thursday, August 22, 2013

Too young to drive? By Rula Sinara

My oldest son just got his driver's permit...a milestone that has me a bit freaked out.

I should be thankful that Virginia is one of the states where the learner's permit age is on the older end (15 1/2 as opposed to 14) and teens have driving restrictions until 18. Still, the idea of my kid driving makes me nervous. I'm protective and the road is a dangerous place, even for safe drivers.

He had to beg me to let him drive me around the neighborhood. I told him, with my first line edits due next week, I couldn't risk my life or limbs. He laughed. He knows I love him. I did finally let him drive me around (after his dad served as guinea pig). I'm half joking here. My son proved he's a good driver. Hand-eye coordination, maneuvering skills and reaction time were great thanks to all the video game training his generation gets. A part of me is looking forward to one less kid to chauffeur around and to having someone to help with errands.

But I'm still nervous.

I don't care how mature a particular teen is, their behavior isn't always consistent. The fact that they often make bad decisions, are easily influenced or distracted by peers and are more likely to engage in risky behavior than their adult counterparts is all based on the fact that their brains aren't fully developed. In particular, the neural connections in their frontal lobe, an area critical to complex thinking such as weighing risk vs reward, are still immature. Research indicates that these connections aren't fully developed until about age 25 (a year or two sooner in girls).  I'm going to cheat (since I have those line edits to get back to) and give you the links to several interesting articles explaining this aspect of teen brain development and it's impact on their behavior and ability to drive safely. One is from an NPR report that came out in 2010 and another was a Washington Post article on the correlation between the teenage brain and teen crash rates.

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=124119468

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A52687-2005Jan31.html

Okay, done reading? See what I mean? I'm allowed to be freaked out. Right? Sigh.

I know we can't keep everyone off the road until their mid-twenties. Still, every year of development makes a difference. I'm glad our state has restrictions on young drivers (before age 18), such as the age and number of passengers allowed, driving at night etc... I know there are adults who also have restrictions due to vision problems. But with teens, it's the split second decisions, increased rate of risky behaviors and increased crash rate that scares me .

I guess a mom never stops worrying.

14 comments:

  1. Oh Rula! I totally sympathize-my son is 3 and I worry about everything lol. I see teens driving all the time and I can't believe how young they start now. I couldn't get my permit until I was almost 17...But, they have to do it sometime and having met you-I fully believe that you have raised your son to be as safe as his frontal lobe will allow:)

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    1. LOL, Jennifer...and thanks :). I was close to 17 too! In fact, I'd witnessed so many accidents growing up that I was afraid to drive. My mom had to trick me into going to take my final test just a few weeks before I was to start college. She was not about to drive me lol. Of course, I passed on the first try...probably bc my fear made me a super careful driver.

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  2. Rula,
    It's a mom's privilege to be panicked when their kids start to drive. I think all states should have the rule that beginning drivers can't drive the first year after they get a license with other kids in the car. They need a year on the road alone to get used to paying attention. My daughter is at your stage. She has twin girls who both just finished driving instruction and got their permits. I know she feels the same as you. Sending you hugs.

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    1. Roz, I love how you say it's a privilege to be panicked :)LOL. I agree on rules. They do have passenger restrictions for drivers under 18 in my state, but it doesn't apply to family (ie younger siblings). Oh, and not getting distracted is a biggie. I can't imagine having two kids with permits at the same time! Hugs to your daughter too :).

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  3. Rula - Syndi can empathize with you. She posted about her step-son getting his first car and all her concerns. (I think that was before you joined our blog.) We'll put your son in the care of St. Christopher, and commit you to the care of the sisterhood of women everywhere who live on the edge of their nerves every day when their children go out the door.

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    1. Muriel, I did miss that post lol! I just went and searched it out :). Man, I had a cute red car once. I had to sell it because it was a two door and I couldn't fit a baby car seat in the back. I went from little sporty red car straight to boring white mini-van...the same one I'm still driving lol. As for motherhood, I feel as if I've graduated to the next level :). Good to know I'm not alone!

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  4. Rula, your are right to worry. It's in our mom DNA. My daughter just drove us on the highway yesterday and I white-knuckle gripped the entire ride. If only their confidence wasn't more developed than their risk -taking/ decision-making skills. Yikes. But I know you've been an amazing model for your son and he will make the right calls :)

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  5. Hey, Karen! I can't even think about highways yet! White-knuckles is right. I should be thankful that we don't live in a high traffic area, however some of our country roads are narrow with sharp, blind turns. Great combo for a head-on collision. I do remember my first time driving on a highway. It was in a major city and I was so nervous. It didn't help that everyone was honking at me for not picking up speed fast enough. Sigh.

    You know what I love about this group? You're all amazing role models!

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  6. Oh, Rula! I would be a wreck too!
    I have a little while before it happens to me--thank goodness!

    HANG IN THERE!

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    1. Hi Jennifer! I'm hanging. They sure grow up fast!

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  7. My kids are 12, 12, and 15. Luckily, my 15-yo has no interest in getting her license. I'm thinking about telling the boys when they can buy their own car and afford insurance and gas, we'll talk. LOL

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    1. LOL, Melissa. That's a great idea! 'Drive' the point home that driving isn't meant to be free fun :).

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