The Sunday before the 4th the Mall Diva joined her cousin’s family up at their cabin near Crosby, MN. The plan was to spend a couple of days on ATVs, dirt bikes and paddle boats and then come back on the 4th so MD could be at work on the 5th. Her cousin drove.
Late Wednesday afternoon I got a message that the Diva and cousin were going to stay up in Crosby to watch the fireworks and then drive home — a 3-hour drive. Well, they missed a very fine fireworks display right in my living room when I got that word. Even without all the teenage drivers slaughtering themselves or being slaughtered by others on the roads at night lately, the thought of these youths driving home after midnight following a day of fun in the sun — and sharing the road with a bunch of other yahoos who had been enjoying fun in the sun and drinking — seemed like a spectacularly bad idea, especially with Al Gore’s kid on the loose.
Fortunately I had the numbers for just about every cell-phone up at that cabin and I left messages on a couple before I got through to the cousin, who just so happened to be right next to my daughter. My message was direct and well-received by MD; unfortunately she wasn’t the one with the car. No matter: “I will come and get you if you don’t have a ride,” I said, figuring I had enough time to get up there and back before midnight and I was well rested. A few minutes later she called back, letting me know they’d be heading home shortly. As it turned out, she was home by 11:00 without incident, though her cousin wasn’t especially pleased that my parental grappling hooks had so much reach. Believe me, I can live with it. I’m not afraid to be the bad guy for a good cause.
As much as MD and her cousin may have rolled their eyes at me, however, it cannot compare to how much I rolled my eyes at those clamoring for Minnesota to pass more laws restricting teen drivers, even though doing so put me – for probably the first and last time – on the same side as Minnesota legislator Tom Rukavina, though probably not for the same reasons. While the article I just linked to strongly suggests a correlation between Minnesota’s “scofflaw” (compared to other states) approach to driver restrictions and the amount of teenage carnage on our roads, I reject the knee-jerk reaction that three or four more laws are the best way to “do something.” That is precisely the type of useless do-goodism and deep-as-a-dogdish thinking that lets people feel good about themselves without addressing the underlying issues of personal and parental responsibility while at the same time promoting the all-caring, ever-expanding nanny state mentality.
That’s not to say that I don’t think teen drivers don’t need guidance and restrictions. Teens are not inherently bad drivers; they are, inescapably, less-experienced drivers. I agree, something must be done — and my wife and I did it. When the Mall Diva first started driving we placed our own “laws” on hours and passengers which were gradually reduced over the past two and a half years. Other expectations have also been communicated and she has demonstrated that she is a responsible and effective driver. And, as indicated above, we continue to take an active and involved interest in her driving (and riding) career, even if it’s wildly inconvenient. (We also put her in 3,000-pounds of sheet metal and we pray a lot). I know MD totally believed me when I said I would come and get her, and not out of reproach but from commitment.
I recognize that that isn’t always enough to keep our children safe, and my heart goes out the the parents who have suffered these wracking losses this year. More laws, however, aren’t a guarantee either. One of the legislators in favor of more laws framed it in terms of “giving parents better tools.” Well, thank you very much, but my tools work just fine, especially when I use them. (I wonder how many of those legislators that want to “help parents” by restricting teens who want to drive are just as adamant about there not being any parental involvement or restrictions on teens that want abortions.) I suppose some parents might feel their position is strengthened if they can cite the law as if the matter was out of their hands. If your children aren’t going to listen to you (who they have to face every day), however, I don’t know if they’ll adhere to a law.