Teen driver’s permit changes everything

By Helena Rodriquez

What kind of a sick, twisted, teenager would voluntarily go to school at 7 a.m. every morning?

Now change the question.

How far will a teen go to get a driver’s license?

The things teens will do these days just to get behind the wheel of a car are interesting.

My 15-year-old daughter Laura, who likes to sleep in late any chance she gets, recently began taking driver’s education at Portales High School. It’s free of charge to me, but the catch is Laura has to be at school at 7 a.m. every weekday. If she’s not there by 7:15, the coach locks the door. This means that Also-Not-A-Morning-Person Mom has to drag herself out of bed to take this still unlicensed driver to driver’s education class.

That’s part of the sacrifice we’re making so Miss Laura can earn driving privileges, which I’m sure will also translate into some benefits, not to mention ulcers, for Mom. However, one thing worse than an eager teen driver behind the wheel is a maniac mom driver in the passenger’s seat, so watch out.

Laura has her driver’s permit now. This allows her to legally be behind the wheel as long as a fully licensed driver over the age of 21 is with her. Thank you, Lord. I’m sure this last stipulation was added to save parents of new teen drivers from overloading 911 operators. “Help! My teenage driver is loose on the streets with a car full of other inexperienced teen drivers!”

Laura will receive full driving privileges (driving without an adult in the car) after she completes the driver’s education class and after she turns 16 in July. This gives me a little time to either: A) Have myself declared an unfit parent so social services will find her an insane family willing to raise a licensed teenage driver. B) Sell my car and start walking everywhere so I can lose that 30 pounds I’ve been wanting to lose. C) Brace myself and recite five decades of Hail Marys every time she “runs to the store.”

Of course there’s always option D: I could set a good example, lay down rules with firm expectations for her to follow, and with harsh consequences to suffer if they are not followed.


Besides the inconvenience of having to take Laura to driver’s education early, the real rude awakening was just before Laura got her driver’s permit when the spotlight was shined on me.

Yes, me.

Miss Laura began learning the rules of the road and then she suddenly became a proactive passenger-seat driver. Her focus shifted from the radio dial to my driving. Instead of her usual, “Can I see what’s on La Mejor, Mom?” she’s like “Ah Mom, I think you have to make a complete stop before you can turn right on a a red light” and I’m thinking to myself, “Go back to your Daddy Yankee!” but at the same time, I have to stop and think because it’s been so long since I had driver’s ed. Oh yeah, I do remember Coach Gomez saying something back in the early 1980s, before the days of the Amarillo La Mejor radio station and Daddy Yankee, that you do have to make a complete stop first, and assuming no other cars are coming, then you can turn right on a red light.

The good thing about Laura driving now is I am forced to re-examine my own driving and lighten up. Or as my sister Julie would say, I need to “get off the gas” and slow down. And now with Laura in the driver’s seat, the spotlight is on her. So I try to sit back, relax and enjoy the scenery, which I usually don’t get to do when I’m driving because I’m usually whipping by at the speed of light, a reminder to myself again to get off the gas.

This experience also has forced me to re-learn patience because I’m not used to being on the passenger’s side. Sometimes I feel like shouting, “You could have gone before that car!” or in my subtle motherly voice, “Don’t drive down the middle of the road!”

But I have to swallow hard and remember that as a teenager driver my daughter is a prime police target for getting pulled over. So instead I say, “It’s good that you let that car go first.” When I do see Laura starting to show signs of my own bad driving I tell her, “You’re too young to have road rage! Take it easy … for now.”

Helena Rodriguez is a columnist for Freedom Newspapers of New Mexico. She can be reached at: