CLEVELAND - She sat down in the waiting room of the Parma BMV just moments after I did. There we were, two anxious mothers waiting as our 16-year-olds took the road test that would determine whether they'd be getting a driver's license Tuesday.
Lynette and I were mirror images of each other, happy to see our children – her daughter, my son – reach this milestone, but working to manage worries about the new risks this "graduation" will bring. Lynette and I could see our kids in the parking lot as they navigated the maneuverability test, holding our breath as our kids performed today's version of "parallel parking."
Lynette told me she'd seen the story we aired Monday Live On Five about the top reasons teen drivers are involved in crashes. We ticked them off:
- Not scanning their mirrors
- Going too fast for road conditions
- Being distracted by something inside or outside the car
The statistics for teen drivers aren't great, and we know that, too. Car crashes are the leading cause of death for teenagers in America.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's website , mile for mile, teenagers are involved in three times as many fatal crashes as all other drivers. As we cover local news, that grim reality hits home over and over again in the most heartbreaking stories. It is the experience no parent ever wants to have, and I believe all parents share some of the pain each time we hear about another young life lost.
Tuesday, my beautiful son passed his road test with flying colors, a perfect score. The jubilation on his face as he shared the good news was priceless. He is priceless to me. I know he is a good and cautious driver. He is also a novice driver. His driving privileges for now are pretty limited – to and from school only.
As his parents, his father and I will do all we can to remind him to be careful, to keep his hands and his eyes away from his cell phone and the iPod while driving, to stay focused on what's in front of him and what is happening around him. I'll ask him to let me know when he's arrived at his destination. And we'll continue our conversations about the dangers of drinking and driving.
But we have both arrived at major rite of passage.
He said, "Ah, freedom!" with a smile and a hug for me.
I watched him pull away from home for the first time, by himself, in his car. The training wheels are really off now.
I am thinking of Lynette today – her daughter now has a driver's license, too. And I'm thinking about all of the other moms and dads who watch their kids pull out of the driveway, on their own, out of the reach of our protective arms where they've been secure until now.
My son is doing exactly what he's supposed to do. He's growing up. And I'll try not to let him see my fears as he heads off down the road, my prayers following him all the way.