“Are you crazy?”

Columnist : Albert Paschall

I have worried about the day my son would ask me to take him to the Drivers Licensing Center to obtain his permit.  He asked several times before we actually made our way there. On July 21st he passed the questionnaire and he asked to drive on the way home. “What, are you crazy?” my less than calm self exclaimed “there is so much you need to learn before you can drive on the road!”

      I drove to a nearby high school that had a huge empty parking lot surrounding it.  After reluctantly parking I handed the keys to my son and calmly asked him to do as I instructed no matter what.  He complied excitedly.  After a brief course on gas and brakes, we were off. The jerking didn’t bother me as much as the speed. He was so intent on just going fast, even if it was only to last a second before I screamed for him to slow down. We parked and turned and stopped and backed up.  I smiled to myself despite my fear.  My son was steering through another rite of passage and I was genuinely happy for him. But, thank God, I thought, I still have 49 hours and 40 minutes left to sit next to him behind the wheel, before he will be on his own.

     I read recently that parents all over Pennsylvania are complaining about the new junior license law that forces kids under 18 to spend 50 hours behind the wheel with a licensed driver before they can take their license test then imposes curfews and other restrictions until they are 18.  Senator Robert Thompson has been under attack from an organized group of constituents in one of the wealthiest areas of his Chester County district.  Senator Thompson stood his ground as a grandfather: “I spent my early adult years photographing accident scenes for the State Police and local newspapers,” he said, “I saw first hand the gruesome consequences of inexperienced drivers out on the road late at night.”

     With the fatal teen auto accident statistics as clear as the windshield in front of your face how can any parent in their right mind complain about the new junior licensing law?  This law has already saved thousands of young lives.  Think of how many more of our children this law will save.  There is no question of its worth.  If this law inconveniences parents in that they will now have to take turns staying up a little later in order to pick up their teens from a dance, a game or a concert, than so be it. It may mean that you will not be up late identifying your child’s body at the morgue, not to mention the endless sleepless nights after.

     Since Governor Ridge pushed through the law, worrying as he said: “my own son and daughter will be asking for their learner’s permits long before I’m ready for it” teen-age accidents are down by half.  In the long haul the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation based on early returns estimates that death in vehicles by kids under the age of 18 will be lowered by 25%.  One in four kids who would have died, will not.  A pick-up here and there seems a small price to pay in comparison to having your child killed.

     As a parent of two teen aged boys, my advice to these disgruntled parents is “teach your children well, someday they will live to thank you”  Under the new Pennsylvania driver’s license law they’ll have a far better chance of living to do just that.