The Gallatin News
I suppose most everyone can recall the excitement of getting their driver’s license as a teenager. It is, after all, the first rite of passage for most young people. It’s the first milestone in establishing some independence and the first taste of freedom.
As an adult, I now realize that the great emotion I felt the first time I was able to drive off all by myself probably paled in comparison to the emotions my parents felt watching me drive off. I’m sure they were both praying for my safety a lot more than the safe return of that ugly green 1970 Nova I was driving.
I came through the learning curve unscathed, which is more than I can say for my dad’s Plymouth Fury. After asking my mom repeatedly if she needed me to drive to the store for bread, milk, a pack of gum, maybe some toothpicks or anything at all, I was finally allowed to make a store run in my dad’s car, which was similar in length to a battleship. On the way back home, on roads that were still wet from a short rain, I decided to punch the old Fury up a few notches while driving up our street. The driveway came up too quick so I hit the brakes and suddenly learned the definition of hydroplaning. The car swerved back and forth as I fought to keep it between the ditches. Ultimately, I lost the fight as the back fender took out our own mailbox before a tree in our neighbor’s yard stopped my wild ride. I can’t recall what my punishment was for that fool-hardy stunt but it must have worked because nothing like that happened again during my teenage years.
I do recall the night three of my friends came dangerously close to having their lives changed, and possibly ended, by one of those bad decisions that teenagers make. The three were coming to pick me up when they stopped at a railroad crossing, waiting for the train to pass. With no cars in front of them, the driver revved up the 350 V8 engine in his Nova SS, the super sport machine that cool guys drove as opposed to the family version I drove. He was just waiting for the caboose to clear to pop the clutch and show his buddies how much power his ride had. As the last railcar passed, he burned rubber and shot forward, only to realize that another train, heading in the opposite direction of the first, was passing on a second set of tracks at the crossing. Only a quick reaction time, a set of good brakes and the good Lord prevented the three from crashing into the moving locomotive.
Tragedy was avoided that night, but far too many nights since and before have families suffered the cruel pain of losing a teenager to an automotive accident. Sometimes, one poor decision can mean the difference in life and death. I suppose this is on my mind after hearing about a Goodpasture student who lost his life in a wreck this week. My heart goes out to the family. I’ve sat in a hospital waiting room with friends hoping against hope for good news about their son, only to be told what no parent wants to hear. It’s something you never forget.
Recent statistics show the leading cause of death in the United States among older teenagers (15-19) is unintentional injuries, of which, automotive accidents are the leading cause. As prom season and graduation nears, I hope all parents will take extra time to remind their teenage drivers the importance of not getting caught up in good times and letting one poor decision destroy lives. It can’t be stressed enough.
See you next week.