Thursday, March 09, 2006

Rookie Driver

As my kid has grown from a mucous covered blob to a teenager (really not that big of a transition), I have taken all the rites of passage in stride. It’s a mom’s job to get all choked up about things like the first day of school. Even him dating doesn’t bother me much, particularly since that seems to mostly occur online. My mother likes to torment me by pointing out that he is now as old as I was when I met my wife. Even that doesn’t phase me. I just realize that kids grow up and you can’t stop it.

However, the rite of passage he just had is turning out to be harder to brush off. Saturday he was 15 years and 9 months old to the day, which is the earliest you can get a learner’s permit in the state of Maryland. He passed the written test with flying colors and now has official government issued identification to that effect. He still has to complete the Driver's Ed class he had to drop out of when his appendix ruptured and complications kept him in the hospital for two weeks.

He now has 6 months until he can take the driving test and get his provisional license. Then he is limited from having minors (other than family members, which is a moot point with him) as passengers for another 5 months. His provisional license, which is in effect for 18 months, also prevents him from driving between midnight and 5 am unless on his way to or from school or work. And any tickets reset the 18 months.

These extremely byzantine rules and restrictions are aimed at reducing accidents by distracted and/or inexperienced drivers. The damper they put on teen dating seem to be a pleasant, and probably not entirely unintentional, side effect.

To really drive home that this is all for real, we spent a half hour Sunday at the local high school parking lot going up and down aisles and pulling in and out of parking spaces. We even scanned and printed a homemade Rookie Driver sign that gets teen-age eye-rolls from my son.

Drivers licenses are probably the only truly universally American rite of passage left. Bar and bat mitzvahs, confirmation, quinceaƱeras, are all either religious or ethnic holdovers that really don’t have a legal or social impact. A drivers license, on the other hand, is the first step to true independence. From here on out all the milestones lead further and further away from home.

Pray for me and keep a lookout for a particularly tacky homemade Rookie Driver sign in the back window. I will be praying for you.

Update: Anyone that wants their own suitable-for-framing Rookie Driver sign, you can get mine here. I just scanned and cropped a portion of the Drivers Handbook the Maryland MVA gave him after he passed the test. I have seen removable vinyl stickers with the same logo. All the local auto shops told us to get them at the MVA, but we sure didn't see any when we were there. We just printed it landscape and coated it with packing tape.


J.Po said...

My oldest daughter got her license last summer, and I am still a wreck every time she heads out in my car. It just seems like driving was so much easier when I got my cell phones, no Sherman Tank-sized SUVs out there. The provisional license restrictions may be Byzantine but most don't apply here in the great Commonwealth of Pennsylvania -- so we impose them ourselves. Good luck to you, yello.

BTW, I finally figured out and responded to your tag...check it out.

Anonymous said...

Mmmm...Spam. What is it with the comments section in your blog, anyway? (See my most recent post for another oddball side effect.)

I'm not a religious person, but I'll pray for you if you pray for youngun will get her permit this summer.

Jeff and Charli Lee said...

Love the sign! I've got a 15 year-old in the same boat. Any chance you can send me the file? I'd be proud to torment my own son the same way.


CagedRabbit said...

You have my sympathy. My son has survived to be 24, despite loving zippy little cars and driving fast. He managed to get tickets in every county surrounding Seattle (and thus has been paying for his own insurance for a long time). Scary, scary time.

He also had appendicitis - it ruptured a couple of days before he went to the hospital (he had his own place at the time). The operation and recovery went well, though.

Good luck to all of you!

Anonymous said...

We just got a third car so that my 17-year-old son could get a job. I insisted on getting a car with a stick shift and it turns out they CAN'T do all those distracting things: no iPod or phone when both your hands are busy.

I really wanted to get a bright-colored, one-of-a-kind car for him to drive so everyone would know him if they saw him and I could hear things like, "Saw your son over on Route 50 the other day going too fast!" or "What was your boy doing at the mall during school hours?" Unfortunately we ended up with one so ubiquitous I can't even find it in a parking lot.

Mooselet said...

We've got a thing over here called a L (learner) plate - it's a bright yellow magnet or sign with a large black 'L' that you put on your car when a newbie is driving. It's a whopping big fine ($120) if you don't have it. States other than mine also have the P plate for newly licensed drivers.

My niece in Mass. recently got her license and I don't know how my brother sleeps at night. I've got a couple years left for my Teen and I'm going to hope they drag. I think licenses are a worldwide rite of passage.

Your Mother said...

Oh my best friend is going through the same thing. Her son hasn't hit the 9 month part but he did start drivers ed. She is not handling it well at all. I pray for her. I'll pray for you too. God help me in May 2007!

Anonymous said...

Haha!! For my 15th birthday my dad took me driving at a school parking lot. At the end of the lesson we were practicing reversing, and when it was time to leave we were still in reverse. Not being familiar with how hard to press on the gas I put pedal to the medal and we shooting backwards instead of forward, and in my panic I pressed harder on the gas instead of the brake. I managed to stop the car literally inches from the edge of a drop off.

I couldn't be convinced to drive again for 3 and a half years after that experience.

I think this made my parents very, very happy!

2fs said...

Interesting that you talk about DLs as a common rite of passage: they're becoming less so, since a lot of schools have eliminated drivers education programs for budgetary reasons, many families can't afford private driving lessons, and in the absence of an actual car to practice in, many kids can't develop the skills to pass and get their license. What do they do instead? Drive anyway. Then they get ticketed, can't afford the fines, which creates an outstanding warrant and a police record. The lack of driving lessons and corresponding lack of properly licensed drivers is a huge problem in cities where most jobs have migrated to suburbia, far from bus lines.

Thumper said...

My son started driving at 14, the minimum age in North Dakota. He drove better then than he does now at almost-23...

kontan said...

oh I bet he loves the sign! LOL

Anonymous said...

There is a 'rookie driver in training' alert magnet for new drivers driving with their parents on the learners permit. You can call this spam, but they are really quite acceptable to parents and teens. Google the term, or the site is It was one of the only new driver magnets our 15 year-old seemd o.k. with....and made our life as parents a little less frustrating.

Unknown said...

Teen Driving statistics are staggering. Most states have enacted better graduated teen driving laws which have had a positive impact. But statistics show that inexperience is still one of largest causes in new driver crashes. I recently saw this article on the Weary Parent site and thought it was worth sharing. It is a possible simple solution to help experienced drivers be aware that a new driver is behind the wheel.

Rookie Driver - Keeping New Drivers Safe

One of the best ways to help keep new teen drivers safe is by giving them a way to be identified as new drivers by others on the road. It has been a long standing tradition in Europe to identify cars being driven by “Learners” with a very easy to identify “L” sticker. By alerting other drivers on the road of the new drivers, experienced drivers can give them more room, be more cautious and a little more understanding when minor courtesy mistakes are made.

Rookie Driver.Net is bringing the awareness to the US, using a fun, teen accepted, car magnet that says Rookie Driver. Afterall, being “Rookie of the Year” is cool in sports, and to teens Rookie Driver is more acceptable than Student Driver or other terms.

The Rookie Driver web site also includes an entire page of teen driving safety links. Definitely worth a look if you have a rookie driver or one who is soon to be.

I just returned from a trip to Baltimore MD and saw dozens of these Rookie Driver magnets---I thought it was great knowing there was a novice made me more cautious. As an experienced driver, I'm all for being alerted of a new driver, in an effort create safer travel for all.


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