New Drivers

I entered the world of having a new teenage driver again this year.  Somehow when I went through this with Spencer it didn’t seem as intense.  Maybe it is because my mom took him out on his first driving experiences – and Tom & I shared the driving time he had to complete (50 hours) before he could get his license.

This time around it is just me and Haley in the car together.  She has gotten so much more confident and competent in the last few months, but for a little while I wasn’t sure that was going to happen!!  I took her a couple of times to a very large, empty parking lot where she was afraid to go faster than 5 miles a hour, struggled to park between the lines of the parking spots when there were no other cars anywhere, and where she even managed to drive up onto on of the “islands”.  I didn’t think we would ever get out on the roads.

Fortunately a trip to Utah arrived and my mom was on hand again to take one of my children out to drive on actual rural roads (I did not ride along!).  Since then Haley has mastered driving around our neighborhood, our community, even the freeways near our home.  She isn’t paralyzed any more by the idea of going faster than 45 miles an hour! It’s kind of fun to watch her acquiring this adult skill and begin to grasp the wider world that is opening up to her.

I’ve thought a lot about my “learning to drive” experiences and how they compare to Haley’s  experience.  She did a 30 hour online course in preparation for getting her permit.  My parents sent me to driving school where I spent the equivalent hours in a classroom.  Once Haley had her permit, I (and my mom) have been teaching her to drive.  I had three or four lessons with a driving instructor and on the last lesson the instructor took me to the DMV to get my license.  Total time from first classroom lesson to license for me?  About 2 months.   Haley has to spend 50 hours (10 hours of night time driving) before she can get her license – and she has to hold a permit for a year before she can trade it in for that license.

I had an accident within a couple of months of getting my license – I hit a parked car (it was such a mortifying experience!!).  Spencer (who also had the same restrictions Haley has) had an accident within the first couple of years – he backed into a car in a parking lot.  Will Haley avoid the new driver accident?  I think the extra time can’t hurt, but it takes years before people become really competent drivers – you just need the experience.

The other thing  about my experience – I learned to drive in a car with automatic transmission but the car that was available to drive in my home had a standard transmission.  I had to learn to drive stick shift if I wanted to use my new privilege.  In fact, the majority of the cars I have owned and driven have been stick shift.  The first car we bought with an automatic transmission  was our first mini-van.  The second was our second mini-van.  Everything else had a stick shift.  I still prefer to drive stick shift just because the driving experience feels more interesting to me.  Spencer had to learn to drive stick shift for basically the same reasons I did – that was the car that was available to drive.  Haley will probably have to do the same and learn to drive the Pathfinder, since our minivan is our newer, more reliable car and I’m reluctant to risk it in an accident.  I think learning to drive stick shift is a valuable skill – but really, how many cars are still sold with standard transmission?  Is it a dying skill?  I wonder…

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