Lessons abound when there’s a learner’s permit in the family

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A 16-year-old has a lot to learn about being behind the wheel.

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There has been a lot of learning at the Espinoza home this summer. Only the 16-year-old has a bona fide permit, but we all benefit.

The first lesson of this season of learning actually started almost two years ago, a demonstration to me of how much the world has changed since I was a teenager. My oldest son, who was only 14 at the time, showed absolutely no interest in getting the permit that state law said he was old enough to apply for.

I had been preparing myself for the day he would start pestering my wife and me to take him to the DMV for his learner’s permit. And then I began to wonder if the day would ever come.

It wasn’t just me.

My friends and I couldn’t wait to get the full license that said we had the freedom to travel as far from home as we could afford, on $1 a gallon of gas. But when those of us who now have teenagers talk about our own children, many of them seem to put driver’s license only a couple of places above dental floss on their priority lists.

Four-dollar gas may have something to do with it right now, but in my house, at least, I mostly attribute it to multiplayer video games that let a group of friends race cars and slay dragons together from separate houses scattered all over the world. parts. village.

However, a few months ago, something on the open road suddenly shone brighter than anything on a screen, and my son took the test and got his permission.

Learning to drive is much easier for him than it is for me in many ways. The absence of manual transmissions in our lives, for one thing, means that it’s much less likely to find yourself stuck in uphill traffic and wondering if you’ll finally master the clutch or if you’re going to roll into the car behind you as soon as the traffic light. turns green

And it helps that my son is generally careful and attentive behind the wheel. Without a doubt, he is a better driver than I am at his age. He even handled California freeway traffic like a pro on a visit to his grandparents.

So far, his only two problems have come at less than 10 mph, when he learned that two objects can’t really occupy the same space at the same time. Not without a bang, at least.

It was a lesson he had to experience twice. The first time was when he caught a door with his passenger side mirror while backing up my dad’s old truck. This pickup is perfect for a lesson like that. It’s easy to fix, and even a botched job wouldn’t stand out much on an honest work truck that’s seen its fair share of use.

I found a cheap replacement mirror and an old friend who used to work with me on cars in our youth brought his teenage son. My friend and I shouted advice from lawn chairs as our boys learned that they can wrestle a door panel, connect the correct wires, change a broken mirror, and put everything back together.

The two object/one space lesson was repeated a couple of weeks later. My son had just pulled out of a driveway when he turned to me and learned that taking your eyes off the road for a second is enough to cut through a mailbox.

The worst damage was done to his savings and his pride when he had to replace the mailbox and came away with another lesson learned.

His little brother was in the back seat, and he got the full effect of the explosion and everyone’s screams as the mailbox sank under the car. The boy’s 14th birthday was not far away and he had been thinking about taking his own learner’s permit test after seeing how easily the 16-year-old seemed to drive.

But the youngest also learned something from the lesson of the broken mailbox: maybe it’s better to wait a little longer before getting behind the wheel. He can use the time to increase your confidence and his savings.

Richard Espinoza is a former editor of the Johnson County Neighborhood News. You can locate it at respinozakc@yahoo.com. And follow him on Twitter at @respinozakc.

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