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Kathy Tofflemire, Published June 30 2009

Parenting Perspectives: Driver’s license changes needed

My mother never drove a car, so when Dad was unavailable I walked, rode a bike or took the bus where I needed to go.

I recall taking driver’s education in high school, but that was only classroom instruction. No behind-the-wheel training was available.

My boyfriend (later husband) taught me to drive. I learned to parallel-park between big cardboard boxes, which he and his friend would move closer together while I drove around the block. He used to make me drive from one side of a country road to the other – in reverse. I was 17.

My daughter learned to drive when she was 15 and had her own car the same year. I didn’t have a car that was truly “mine” until I became a single woman at 31.

Although transportation became an issue with my teenage daughter because I worked a late shift, in retrospect, allowing her to get her license so young and providing her with her own “wheels” was not very smart.

Although she was basically a good kid, I didn’t know where she was a lot of the time. Fargo, Moorhead, Dilworth, points east? Or maybe west.

That loss of control is what led me to take a newspaper job on the East Coast. The paper published in the afternoon so I was able to work days.

But in dumb move No. 2, or was it 3, I “bribed” her with the used Camaro she wanted in exchange for dragging her across the country. Of course the car made her a hit at her new high school.

She had been allowed to get her license early in North Dakota because she received professional driving instruction. Connecticut was not so lenient. Even though she had her license and had just driven 1,200-plus miles, she was required to take a driver’s test as if she were a beginner. She was 16.

According to a recent commentary on The Forum’s Opinion page, most states now have a graduated driver’s licensing program since statistics show that teen drivers have the highest crash risk of any age group.

During the most recent North Dakota legislative session, a driver’s education bill that included a progressive licensing system was defeated.

Under the proposal, younger drivers would have restrictions that would become fewer as they got older.

I think this is an excellent idea, and I hope it becomes law two years from now.

I stopped at my mailbox recently as I drove into my condo parking lot. My grandson asked, “Can I drive the car to your garage?”

“No, you can’t drive the car to my garage. You’re 10!”

It will only be a few years before he will be behind the wheel.

I’m older and wiser now, and I want him to be as safe as he can be when he does begin to drive.

I’m sure he’ll want his own car. He’ll have to take that up with his parents. His mother has a really good memory regarding her teenage years, so I’ll be wishing him luck with that.


Kathy Tofflemire is a copy editor at The Forum. Readers can reach her

at (701) 241-5514 or ktofflemire@forumcom.com