Archive for Monday, September 24, 2012


River City Jules: Unleashing a teenage driver

September 24, 2012


Sitting in the dealer’s office negotiating a car for our daughter to drive (someday, when we teach her how to use a stick shift), the room started spinning.

I rubbed my eyes, trying to focus on our dealer’s face as words like “six-cylinder” and “1.6 liters” tumbled from his lips. But the only thing I could see was the face of the nurse who wheeled me to the hospital exit over 15 years earlier with my newborn daughter in my arms.

She mentioned diapers, breast pumps and umbilical care, but she did not mention that the eight-pound, nine-ounce ball of wonder we had just secured into a five-point harness car seat would someday venture out onto the streets alone, without my husband cautiously crawling five below the speed limit while I checked her air passage every 30-45 seconds, but, rather behind the steering wheel.

“Wait a minute!” I interrupted. My husband and the dealer looked at me. “I’m still not sure this is the right car for her.”

“What do you think we should get?” asked my patient husband, who had spent almost as many hours researching cars as our daughter had spent baby-sitting to save up for one.

“She needs something bigger,” I started, “made of military-grade titanium. Like a tank, but in bright yellow, so other drivers will be able to see her coming. Maybe with a light on top.”

“Like a school bus?” my husband clarified.

“Exactly!” I replied. “But with bubble-wrap interior. And a helmet.”

“She’ll never be able to park it,” he reasoned.

“That’s fine,” I assured him, “I’ll drive her around in it.”

“You’ll never be able to park it either.” He is so picky about parking within the lines, not touching other cars when you park, blah blah blah …

“But this car,” I said, pointing out to the lot, “doesn’t have a protective 20-foot, Tempur-Pedic-lined force field around the driver’s seat.”

“Neither does a school bus,” our dealer piped up.

“And, speaking of mattresses, this car,” my husband said, pointing out to the lot, “has a small back seat. Nothing is going to happen back there.”

I considered this for a moment.

“Where do I sign?”

No bright yellow titanium, no bubble-wrap interior. We can’t force a helmet on her, but we can plead for the rest of you to proceed with caution.

Pay attention to the road, driven by our daughter and thousands of other daughters and sons. Slow down. Put away your phone. I have seen you try to drive while texting, and you are terrible, truly terrible, at it.

In return, we will do our best to let loose a fuel-efficient roadster driven by one irreplaceable, sometimes stubborn (not sure where she got that trait) teen who has sworn up and down to drive it with care … as soon as we teach her how to use a stick shift.

— Julie Dunlap can be reached at


amac 5 years, 2 months ago

AMEN! I have two teen driver's in my home and beg you to please pay attention, slow down and be careful. I will encourage my teens to do the same.

RiverCityJules 5 years, 2 months ago

I hear you! I'm more afraid of the other drivers at this point!!

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