From Permit to License, Part Three: A parent’s journey with a teen driver

Anyone who has obtained a Massachusetts driver’s license can probably memorize the series of tasks that comprise the Commonwealth’s road test: Three-point turns; backing up in a straight line; hill starts; and parallel parking.

My son’s first few times behind the wheel were devoted to practicing each of these steps, on a dead end road near the local RMV branch. And now it was time for him to actually take to the streets and operate his father’s Corolla.

We agreed that on the Sunday morning of Labor Day weekend, my son would drive on the local roads for the first time. It’s just under a mile from the RMV parking lot to the mall that anchors the city shopping district. I told my son that navigating this small stretch of road would be a good way to get a feel for the wheel and ease into his driving career.

When the time came, my son was ready. Without prompting, he adjusted the driver’s seat, side mirrors and rear view mirror before starting the car. We reviewed all of these important steps in the past lessons, which are clearly laid out in The Parent’s Supervised Driving Program guidebook. I explained to him how, in months to come, the officer administering his driving test would be sitting in the front seat, where I was currently situated, and that I would be seated behind the driver for the duration of the test.

My boy backed out of the space, and drove out of the lot, coming to a full stop at the stop sign and using all requisite turn signals. The road was not busy, but he still had to execute a proper left turn onto the street. It was a tremendous relief to his father that this went flawlessly.

He adhered to the posted speed limit of 30 mph as we climbed the hill, and he waited his turn at the four-way stop intersection at the hill’s crest. At the next stop sign, he again slowed and came to a full stop, then turned into the mall parking lot, and at my urging, parked in a lined space.

When he put the car in park, my son turned to me, shut his eyes, and said, “That was stressful.”

“It gets easier,” I told him. Then I asked, “What are you stressed about?”

“I didn’t want to wreck your car,” he said.

Strangely, although I had my own free floating anxiety about this excursion, that thought had never occurred to me. “Don’t worry,” I told him. “The car’s already paid for, and I probably need to buy a new one soon anyway.” 

 After taking a few minutes to compose himself, he pulled the Corolla back onto the road, and drove us back to the RMV lot. Only this time a woman in a black subaru was tailgating us during the entire trip. Which is, of course, another lesson about driving in Massachusetts.  


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