By Guest Blogger Lisa Witherspoon
Dear Tailgating Driver,
Hi! I know you probably have somewhere really important to be. Maybe you have an appointment. Maybe you are on the way to pick up your children or your elderly grandmother. Maybe your day hasn’t gone quite as you had planned, so now you are running late. Maybe you skipped lunch and are feeling kind of “hangry.” Maybe you just really have to pee. I get it. I’m guilty of doing the same thing, too.
I just wanted you to know that we’re not trying to be annoying. In fact, it’s just the opposite. You see, my teenager is driving this car right now. She just got her permit a few days ago and she still has a lot to learn. I’m actually trying to help her learn how NOT to be an annoying driver. It’s kind of terrifying. This is the first time she has driven on this road. I wish you could see her white knuckles as she grips the steering wheel very tightly because she is nervous right now. I wish you could see my white knuckles, too, because I am more nervous than she is, but I’m trying not to let her see that.
You should know that she is acutely aware of the speed limit on this road and is diligently trying to obey it just exactly. She is also trying to stay in her lane, watch out for obstacles in the road, and remember to signal when she changes lanes. That construction zone back there really threw her for a loop, too. It was the first time she had ever driven through one of those. She took the driver’s education class, but that is not the same as actually driving. The class also scares the kids with statistics and videos about how many teen drivers die in car crashes and such. I’m sure glad they don’t show those videos to the parents! A minute ago, my daughter cracked a joke reminding me that I don’t have a brake over here on the passenger side. The driver’s education cars have those. This car doesn’t, but I sure wish it did.
My daughter is kind of in a hurry to get home, too. She has a lot of homework to do tonight and a big test tomorrow that she needs to study for. She is hoping to do well on it so she can make a good grade in the class and, hopefully, get in to a good college. Oh, and her friend wants to FaceTime tonight because she is struggling with depression and needs someone to talk to. Her parents aren’t home much, so my daughter tries to help her friend as much as she can. Teens have a lot of pressure and stress these days. You probably think that doesn’t have much to do with her driving right now, but, actually, maybe it does, so I thought you should know. It’s very different from 30 years ago when I was a teenager.
In fact, 30 years ago, driving was different, too. There was less traffic and there were no cell phone distractions. I wonder if my parents were as nervous about me driving as I am about my daughter driving? I wonder if your parents were nervous about you driving? Do you remember being a new teen driver? Do you have kids? Did you help teach them how to drive?
If I’m this nervous now in the car with her, I can’t imagine how I am going to feel the first time she drives away on her own. As difficult as this is, I think being in the car with her behind the wheel probably feels better than not being in the car at all to give her play by play instructions. I hope I am doing a good job now so she is a safe driver then.
Anyway, I just wanted you to know that I understand your frustration and wanted you to be aware of the reason for our less than perfect driving. I promise I am doing my very best to teach her all about safe, responsible driving. Believe it or not, you are teaching her, too. You probably didn’t realize that at first, but now that you do, I would appreciate it if you would back off our bumper a little and give my daughter some space to learn. She would really appreciate that, too. Next time you are tailgating someone so closely, please remember that it might be my daughter. It might be someone else’s son or daughter who is just learning to drive. It might be a teen who is driving alone for the very first time. They might be really nervous and honestly doing their best at that moment. Just like you and just like me, they are hoping to make it safely to their final destination where, if they are lucky, someone who loves them very much is anxiously waiting for them to arrive. You were a new driver once, too, right?
Thanks for your patience and best wishes for safe travels, today and always.
The mom in the passenger seat of the car in front of you
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