Because of Her

Driver’s Ed.

Is there anything that strikes more fear in the heart of the parent of a teenager? We are long past the days of kids cruising through our small towns looking for social action and the kind of jalopy racing depicted in the iconic ‘American Graffiti’ and other movies. Still the clamoring for independence and ‘wheels’ and a driver’s license begins earlier than it used to. Fourteen years and nine months, in fact. I know because I have been through it.


He has a full on Level II license. He can, pretty much, drive himself anywhere at any time. She has a permit, has finished her second session of classes and is waiting for me to schedule a road test so she can apply for her Level I license.

I have to admit that having them able to drive themselves back and forth from school events and soccer practices and shopping all on their own has given the household parents an unexpected freedom. Just a few weeks ago we were trying to coordinate drivers for a social activity when it suddenly occurred to me that they could drive themselves. And they did.

The household parents went to a movie….alone…..and actually held hands.


Luckily we have very good drivers in our teens. They know, first hand, what can happen. Five years ago, on a Friday night – we were cruising along the expressway in Novi on our way home from one of her soccer games when we happened upon a caravan of Hummers carrying National Guardsmen toward a weekend of maneuvers. We waved from the windows of our swanky red Aztek and they waved back. Hubby was driving and pulled behind them and suddenly another car – a smaller car – swerved in between us. My husband made a split second decision – the only possible decision – and saved lives. He took our car up the side embankment where it literally flew through the air, landed on two wheels, flipped to the side and then completely over.

My daughter immediately hit the button and opened a back passenger window before the car’s electronics shut down. I went into immediate ‘teacher mode’ and asked if everyone was okay. After a quick visual check, I told them to scuttle out the window and up the embankment. I assured them that Dad and I would be right behind. I remember seeing the two of them standing safely at the top of the embankment and then the other windows crashed in as we were immediately surrounded by National Guardsmen in all their camouflaged glory. The Hummer caravan had stopped.

We have a lot of memories from that night. Princess screeching as the paramedic attempted to cut her soccer shoe (“the very best ones I have EVER haaaAAAaadd, Mom!”) from a possibly injured foot. We talked him into just cutting the laces. And then there were visions of the Prince stretched out on the side of the road covered in camouflage jackets to ward off shock as he had several cuts around his eye and a possible head injury. He spent three hours calmly strapped to a backboard in the emergency room waiting for assessment. This was my kid with zero patience. And there was the mildly confused National Guardsman who went in search of the all important cloth bag in the back of the upside down Aztek that held this old Teacher’s report cards – which were still not computerized at that time. And the angel of a nurse (on her way home from work) behind us who stopped to help out until the paramedics got there.

It was a humdinger of a night!

And it was months until my kiddos were comfortable in the car again. A slight swerve over the speed notches at the side of the road could trigger intense anxiety. We had tons of conversations about how Dad’s decision was the only decision possible. How the little car would have been crushed against the Hummers had we hit it….and the people inside killed. How that red Aztek – which was totaled – did the job it was designed to do in protecting its passengers – the four of us. But time passed. Memories faded. And my kids are good drivers. A little anxious at times…..but good.

Less than a year after our humdinger of a night, another family experienced something much, much worse. The MacDonald Family of Lake Odessa, Michigan, lost their daughter, Keisha, in an automobile accident in February of 2007. As a memorial to their gorgeous aspiring model/actress daughter, they created ’The Keisha MacDonald Dare 2 Dream Foundation.’ It was this foundation that gifted the Michigan State Police with seven scholarships for their Teen Driving program. This Mom heard about the scholarships one morning on the news and clicked on the website to sign up her son. His was one of the seven names selected to join the already full program

So this morning I drove a somewhat grumpy teenager in the required slacks and collared shirt to the Michigan State Police Training Center which is an hour away from our home. (Grumpy because he had to be there at 7:45 am and it IS summer vacation after all!) But I know that his frown is going to be a pretty intense gaze and eventually a smile as he and his 14 other classmates learn defensive driving, skid control, serpentine control, controlled braking, evasive maneuvering, confined area maneuvering and off-road recovery….among other things. They will be buckled in, helmeted and under the care of the most highly trained drivers in the state. And get to drive Michigan State Police vehicles to do it.

Oh yeah…..he will be grinning.

And this Mom can rest a bit easier about the driving abilities of one of her teen drivers.

Thanks to The Keisha MacDonald Dare 2 Dream Foundation.

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2 Comments on “Because of Her”

  1. debbi rothenberg Says:

    As usual, sentiment combined with simple, well selected words. I love your blogs.

  2. KC Says:

    I will so want my kids to have one of those courses when they hit driving age! Getting an ulcer just thinking about it though.

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