The day my teenage daughter, Kara, passed her driver's test proved to be both a proud and scary moment. Proud in that she displayed the knowledge and skills necessary to operate a vehicle, but scary in that she was now in possession of 3,000 pounds of metal, capable of speeds up to 100 miles per hour.
Since safety was always a big concern of mine, I guess practicing in the confines of a cemetery paid off. That is where I first taught my daughter how to ride a bicycle and years later how to drive a car. It was the safest spot I could think of. I figured what harm could she possibly do?
Having her drive around our subdivision for the first time with real live people in moving traffic was the most nerve-racking experience of my life. I felt like an air traffic controller without benefit of radar. She did great despite myepisodes of screaming, leaning, grabbing and pressing my braking foot to the floor.
In order for Kara to pass her written test, she had to answer a question such as, "How many car lengths do you need to be behind the car in front of you?" Granted this is important, but shouldn't there also be a mandatory parental checklist?
"Do you know how to operate a dishwasher, washing machine and dryer? Can you cook a full meal? Are you willing to take your pet for a walk? Can you change an empty toilet paper roll? Will you put gas in the car?" Then and only then should licenses be issued to teenagers.
What amazes me the most is that Kara went from driving a Barbie jeep to an automobile in less than 10 years. How can I stress the importance that driving is risky business? An amusement park ride's bumper-car mentality no longer works. Hitting and bouncing off of another vehicle is no longer fun, but detrimental to one's health as well as others.
Since my daughter started driving a whopping three months ago, she has become an expert on the subject and has reminded me that my driving skills are a bit lax. I often hear, "You didn't put on your directional when you changed lanes" or "You didn't come to a full stop at the stop sign."
I first started driving 40 years ago. All I can remember is being in the middle of an intersection and hearing "honk, honk, honk" directed at me and not having the slightest clue of what went wrong.
Times have changed since I first got behind the wheel. The only distractions to cope with then were tunes from the car's radio, an air freshener dangling from the mirror and a St. Christopher medal on the dash.
Today's youth have to contend with superhighways at super speeds, a significant increase in car traffic and noise from radios, CDs, DVDs, laptop computers, GPS systems and cell phones.
Living in the snow belt, lake-effect region, I can hardly wait until she experiences winter driving. Having been caught in a few blinding blizzards, I will make sure she keeps a survival kit in her car. The basics include a flashlight, an empty coffee can with candles and matches, a blanket, windshield washer fluid, a heavy-duty ice scraper and a receptacle for waste.
I hope I have steered my daughter in the right direction, because I am no longer in the driver seat. Just in case, I'll throw in a set of rosary beads for good measure.
Karen Adragna Walsh, who lives in Hamburg, hopes she has steered her daughter in the right direction.