Captain Obvious Reports: Sixteen-year-olds Maybe Shouldn’t be Licensed

Last week I heard a news story on the radio warning that sixteen-year-olds are too young to drive. According the the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a research group funded by the auto insurance industry, car crashes are the biggest reason kids die. They recommend increasing the licensing age.

According to an article I read, “More than 5,000 U.S. teens die each year in car crashes. The rate of crashes, fatal and nonfatal, per mile driven for 16-year-old drivers is almost 10 times the rate for drivers ages 30 to 59, according to the National Highway Safety Administration. Many industrialized countries in Europe and elsewhere have a driving age of 17 or 18.”

I don’t think that’s news to any of us, is it? These young teens are inexperienced, somewhat lacking in judgment and have a sense of invulnerability that has them take risks that perhaps they shouldn’t. New Jersey, the state where I grew up and got my drivers license, is the only state that says you must be seventeen to be licensed. And some states are as low as fourteen!

Now that’s surprising to me. Not that I loved waiting until seventeen. I was just as impatient as the next kid. Still, I was pretty mature, and I don’t think I would have been ready to fly solo at sixteen. And we’ve all been next to these youngest drivers on the road, watching as they have twelve people stuffed into the back seat of their Corolla, music blaring just enough to rupture the nearest eardrum, giggling and talking on their cell phones…

Graduated licensing, which has become the standard across the country in the past 15 years, requires teens to spend more time driving with a parent or other responsible adult before they go solo. Though these rules are sometimes difficult to enforce, many states tie these more stringent standards to declining teen crash rates. That’s a good thing, too. But is it enough?

In my years as an insurance agent I was the one who added the child to the parents’ policy, and I was the one who filed the claims as they came in. And came in they did. I thank G-d that I never had to report that a child had died, as I was in tears, struggling to maintain professionalism when I spoke to the families of adult clients that had been fatally injured in crashes. A child would have been…impossible.

Proponents for keeping the age at sixteen say that driving helps kids learn responsibility, and that increasing the age will make them less responsible. I do agree that it can be part of helping kids learn responsibility, but I don’t think that it follows that kids who have to wait an extra year are less responsible. In some cases I’ll bet they are more responsible…like when they have wait because they need to earn the money for their own insurance and car. A strategy which will be utilized in this household.

See, safety isn’t the only reason to have them wait to get licensed. Cost is another factor. I recall being seven months pregnant and daydreaming about the son that was soon to be born whilst blow drying my hair. All of a sudden I had an unhappy epiphany. “Oh. My. G-d. I’m going to have to pay boy car insurance rates!!!!”

Now that I’m a parent I realize that my responsibility to prepare my son to get his drivers license has many facets. Yes, he needs to know the mechanics of starting the car, switching gears, parallel parking, all of which he will be taught, ad naueum. He also needs to know and understand that cars, insurance and gas cost money. He will understand that because he will earn the money for all of the above before he’s permitted to get his license.

But that’s not all. He needs to understand that he’ll be driving more than a ton of metal, and that gives him not only the responsibility for his own life but the life of anyone in his car, and every other driver and pedestrian on the road. He needs to have empathy, and to know that getting there safely takes priority over getting there quickly. He needs to be secure enough in himself that he doesn’t need to show off for his friends by peeling out or doing donuts on someone’s lawn.

He needs enough of all of the above to not get behind the wheel when drinking. He also needs to not get in someone else’s car when they’ve been drinking, and have the strength and sense to prevent them from driving at all.

The thing is, no state law is going to teach my son these things. Only Husband and I can. So though I wouldn’t mind seeing the driving age raised, it’s really a non-issue to me.

Because we will decide when Son is ready to be licensed, not the state. I don’t care if the law says 14, 15, or 17 . Son will not drive until we, as parents, agree that he is ready. We are the law of this land. And we shall be fair and reasonable, and unafraid to say “No”.

Will the Real Baby Daddy Please Swab Up

There are home pregnancy tests, home HIV tests and home drug tests. There are home ovulation tests, diabetes tests and cholesterol tests.

Home medical testing is a booming market, and so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that you can now answer the Who’s your baby daddy? question without leaving home. Just go down to the Rite Aid and drop $20 per possible Daddy. A cheek swab and another fistful of dollars for the lab later and you have your answer.

Maury Povich and Judge Hatchett must be shaking in their Manolo Blahnicks.

My first reaction to this news was a serious eye roll, followed by the usual lamentations about the deterioration of the family and it’s effects on society. Blah, blah,blah. I just couldn’t imagine someone getting pregnant and not knowing who fathered the child.

And then I remembered my Mom.

When I was thirteen someone broke into our apartment and raped her. I was on a sleepover at a friend’s house, but my sister was asleep in the bedroom next door. My mother did not resist; she was thinking only of my sister’s safety.

The next day she brought a huge Siberian husky home, and a few weeks later she found out she was pregnant. She didn’t know if the baby was her fiance’s or her rapist’s. She had enough issues, and didn’t feel that she could take on raising the child of her rapist. She couldn’t take the chance that it was his.

So she had an abortion. While I’ve always supported her decision, I’ve always felt a profound sadness when I think of the loss of my little brother or sister. I’m sure the experience has led to my own feelings about abortion.

Yeah, this test would have been good to have.

And people make errors in judgment. I thought back to a certain get-rid-of-the-new-guy-and-get-back-with-the-old-guy indiscretion in my youth where I could have been faced with this possibility if not for my at-least-two-and-sometimes-three-methods-of-birth-control-at-all-times policy.

So amidst all of the drama of uncertainty and irresponsible promiscuity that makes it’s way onto the public stages of Maury and Jerry and all the rest, I hope these tests can give some terrorized, ravaged, brave women, and some other regretful, now-making-better-choices ordinary women, some private peace of mind.

Lindsay Lohan

Lindsay Lohan has had many troubles lately, most of them her own doing. The substance abuse monkey is a very difficult one to try to get off your back, and the bad decisions one makes as a result of intoxication, self-hatred and general apathy can have far-reaching consequences.

But some of Lindsay’s troubles aren’t of her own doing. There are many who want to take advantage of her, and her deep pockets.

In October of 2005 Lindsay was involved in a car accident with one Raymundo Ortega. The California Highway Patrol determined that Mr. Ortega was responsible for the accident, having made an illegal U-turn. Nevertheless, Mr. Ortega, a busboy, felt that it was moral and just to sue Lindsay for $200,000 because she had the nerve to be there when he made his illegal U-turn. He alleges that she was fleeing paparazzi (not a crime) and drinking (likely, but there’s no evidence).

Lindsay settled the lawsuit with Mr. Ortega, but I really wish she hadn’t. I’m sure he didn’t get $200,000 from her, but he didn’t deserve a penny. Not one cent.

These types of cases really get my panties in a twist. The burglar who sues you because he gets stuck in your garage while breaking into your house. The kid climbs the fence to break into the pool area and breaks his neck diving in. The woman who sues the apartment complex because she gets bit by a dog in the park across the street.

Those people have kahunas. Great big mirrored brass ones.

I don’t have an issue with suing the truly responsible party if you are injured permanently or suffered greatly or lost money due to someone else’s negligence. But I shouldn’t have to pay someone who got hurt because of their own. Neither should Lindsay. And neither should you.

Yet another reason to get a Personal Liability Umbrella.

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