Peg Pickering Goter – Newsletter Editor
“We might not have to watch Red Asphalt,” my daughter just told me. We were talking about her driver’s training class. She has completed about 24 hours in 4 days, with two more days remaining this weekend. She assumed that I would be familiar with this video series, because the first installment was created in the mid-sixties. Since my intention was to write a humorous article, I need to tell you that these videos were never intended to be funny. Having said that, the first one is so outdated that it would provide almost no relevance to today’s teen, and the third installment was so cheesy that it was hard not to laugh. This article is also pretty funny.
Anyway, each day I have picked her up from class, she has informed me that she was mostly being taught about all the different ways one can die while driving a car. She did say that she got a 95 on “recognizing road signs, ” so I feel confident that there is some technical driving knowledge being imparted. She also told me that my hands were in the wrong place on the steering wheel, and the airbag would break my wrists if it deployed at that moment. So much for the old “10:00 and 2:00!”
In 1976, I did take a driver training class, but the only thing I remember is that the instructor was a football coach, and that he marked me incorrect when I said a “lead foot” was a driver who drove too fast. He insisted that it was somebody who drove at a constant speed (which was obviously very dangerous). Duh. I got a permit at 15 and 6 months, and a full, unrestricted license on my 16th birthday. I was the last of four, seven years younger than my closest sibling… Mom could hardly wait for me to drive, and got me hooked up with wheels almost instantaneously. I was given use of a 1972 Chevy Vega, which consumed a quart of oil with every other gas fill-up. Alas, the Vega “met with an accident” in my second year of college (I SWEAR it was NOT MY FAULT!) Then my parents bought me a 1980 Ford Pinto…
I drove the Pinto Pony until I was able to buy my first car with my engineering salary. It was a 1984 Mazda RX7. Vroom… (Actually, the rotary engine went “hmmmm.”)
So now we are considering what type of vehicle we would feel comfortable having my daughter drive. She will begin on-road training in about 6 weeks, and I intend to have her learn on both our Pacifica (big and safe) and my Subaru Legacy (safe but fast!). When she starts driving solo, I would not be comfortable with either the Pacifica that can comfortably seat 6 additional teenagers, nor a V-6 that does zero-to-60 in about 6 seconds. She has expressed a love of the VW Beetle, and we are considering one of those. I am trying not to think about the Beetle my friend had in 1977… I used to sit in the back seat because the front passenger seat had been removed when the floor rusted through. No heat. Seatbelts??? HA!
So, friends… the next time somebody wistfully opines about “the good old days”, please remind them how much safer today’s cars are. Even with faulty ignition switches and exploding airbags, we are safer on today’s roads because of seatbelts, infant car-seats, airbags, drunk-driving laws and graduated teen-licensing programs. While we’re listing things, cell phones allow us to call for help, steering-wheel-mounted radio controls help us keep our eyes on the road, GPS navigation keeps us from getting lost, automatic lights stay on so that we can see our way to our front doors. I’d like to think that many safety features came about as women engineers began working in the auto industry. Yay us! As scary as it seems to be putting my daughter behind the wheel, I KNOW that she has a much better chance of survival than I did at her age.