Teen drivers are happy to give Mom a few pointers

November 21, 1999|By Susan Reimer

THEY SAY A LITTLE knowledge is a dangerous thing, but what they forgot to mention was how annoying it is in the hands of teen-agers who are learning to drive.

The carpool has taken on a new atmosphere now that the boys I am hauling around are sporting learner's permits like they were Get Out of Jail Free cards.

And I thought they were obnoxious when they ate.

All the boys have taken two weeks of driver's education, and what a parade of knowledge I am witness to! If only I could get this much information when I ask, "What did you learn in school today?"

Not all of them have actually driven a car yet, but that doesn't stop them from telling me what I'm doing wrong.

"You're holding the steering wheel in the wrong place," I have been told. "Place your hands at 5 and 7 o'clock or your arms will be broken by the force of the air bag if you crash."

"You should never try to cross two lanes of traffic at once, especially if you don't put your turn signal on any earlier than you did."

Hey, thanks for the tips, guys. I'll try to do better.

I'm not sure what's motivated them to share all they've learned in driver's ed class, considering that they have declared their school notebooks to be private and confidential.

But I am getting an unsolicited refresher course in highway safety, one that I find particularly irritating, coming as it does from youngsters whose only driving experience is in driving me crazy.

"You need to turn off your cell phone in the area around gasoline pumps," I am warned.

A smile is my polite response, but I am thinking, "shuddup."

When they are not telling me how to drive, the boys are bragging about what good drivers they expect to be. "I'm nice, man. I'm a safe driver. I am good at driving."

This from a young man who has never driven a car outside the parking lot of the Naval Academy Stadium. It's clear that they think of driving as an elaborate video game.

"This lane merges. You should never have pulled into this lane."

"Did you mean to stop that fast? The light was yellow."

I don't know why I am surprised at their willingness to criticize my driving. This is the same age group that shakes its head in dismay at parental ineptitude in so many other areas.

The boys think we have done a sorry job raising them. They think we make sorry money doing sorry jobs, and, not surprisingly, they think we drive sorry cars.

I am pleased that the boys are all determined to excel beyond the standards set by their parents, but I'm wondering if they couldn't soften the judgments just a tad.

And, as you might imagine, this group of wannabe drivers is insulted by any criticism directed its way.

"I'm looking at the road," one said to his mother, "I can't look at the speedometer, too."

I think it is all part of their plan to gain unfettered access to a car as soon as possible. If they make us angry enough, we might throw the keys across the room at them. And they may be right. Who would want to go anywhere with a set of back-seat drivers that carps like a Greek chorus?

"Did you think to look before you started pulling out of this parking space? There could have been someone behind you."

I can't tell you how much better I liked it when they ignored me.

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