Most teenagers should not be allowed behind the wheel of a motor vehicle, on the road or off. They don't have the good sense God gave a grape, and they're damn dangerous.
Not long ago, my wife roped me into a family get-together deal with her new boss. She figured it would be good for their working relationship if our two families had some "quality time" together. So we all went bowling. Drove together in the boss's Suburban. And the nitwit let her teenage son do the driving.
Right away I started to say something, but my wife gave me the elbow as soon as my mouth opened. So I kept quiet. And I crossed myself.
Let me tell you, I was never so glad to get out of a truck. This kid was all over the place. Couldn't keep the Chevy between the lines. Stomped on the gas pedal until it was time to stomp on the brake. Kept switching radio stations. Had no concept of speed limits or blind spots. And to top it all off, he had that incredibly annoying habit of grabbing the top of the steering wheel underhanded whenever he wanted to turn.
Man, it wasn't until my third beer that I calmed down enough to bowl a decent game.
I guess I wasn't the only one nervous. The boss's husband made sure he had the keys when we left the alley. He's a good enough guy, I guess, but he should teach his son how to drive.
Not that my own teenage driver is any Mario Andretti. But we practiced behind the wheel a lot when he was on his permit. I hammered into him ideas about staying alert, staying focused, and how easy it can be to lose control of a two-ton machine. Not to mention how easy it seems to be for the other jerks on the road to lose control and slam into him.
It's not just me. I read statistics in the paper the other day that said car crashes are the number-one cause of death among teenagers in the U.S. The same story said beginning drivers have the highest rate of crashes due to speeding, and the highest rate of teenage passenger deaths in their vehicles. This was in a story about a 16-year-old kid who took his friends out joyriding in his parent's car late one night, lost control, and plowed into a wall. At more than 100 mph. Killed the kid and one of his friends, and put the other two in the hospital.
A kid dying is a tragedy beyond words. A kid dying like that is just plain stupid. If the teenager couldn't drive, chances are good that whole accident would never have happened. If he and his buddies had to sneak out, they'd have had to do it on skateboards or bicycles. Pretty tough to smack a wall at 100 on a Schwinn.
Some states are trying to do something about this problem by having graduated driver's licenses for teens. In California, what that means is that the kids can't drive with passengers younger than 20 unless there's a 25-year-old or older licensed driver with them. They also aren't allowed behind the wheel between midnight and 5 in the morning.
That's supposed to cut down on the distractions inside the car and keep the kids home late at night. Not a bad idea, as long as the rules are enforced. The kid who crashed waved his middle finger at the whole thing. And, his parents were away and couldn't control the keys. He died as a result.
Now that I think about it, maybe it's some parents who don't have the common sense of a grape. They're your children, for cryin' out loud. Teach them how to drive, make them respect the machinery, warn them about the other idiots on the road, and keep them safe until they're old enough to make the right decisions for themselves. How old is that? My kid's doing fine already. My wife's boss's kid probably won't get it until he's 30. The kid who died won't ever get the chance.