Childhood Family

Rules of the road

My daughter has had a learner’s permit for about four months now, which means I have said, “WHOA! WHOA! WHOA!” more times in the last four months than I have in my previous 43 years combined.

In fairness to her, that was mainly in the first month, when I getting used to riding shotgun with her. She is progressing nicely, and I am sure that her mother will be ready to ride with her easily within the next few decades.

Since she got her permit, my daughter has found countless reasons to go … anywhere. Pretty much the moment I walk in the door from work, I am greeted with something like this:

ALLIE: Hi, daddy! How was your day! I hope it was great!

ME: Where are you wanting to drive?

ALLIE: Oh, I’m not. Just happy to see you. But since you mention it, I need, um, shampoo. Can we go to the store?

ME: Your mother got you shampoo.

ALLIE: I mean conditioner.

ME: And conditioner.

ALLIE: I mean apples.

ME: Sigh. Just get the keys.

When we do drive, I find different kinds of words of wisdom to impart to her. She studied diligently before her test, so she knows the rules of the road quite well. And in her first month of driving, she grew a ton as a driver. Plus, she’s now taking driving lessons from an actual driving instructor, so I feel my primary job is now to teach her the driving lessons that you do not learn in a manual or by an actual trained professional. Some of those rules:

  • When parking in a lot, find a spot toward the back of the lot, with a lot of open space around you. It’s way easier to pull into an open spot, and a short walk is good for you.
  • And when parking, don’t pull through a parking spot so you can be facing out when you leave. First, you may find yourself face-to-face with someone trying to pull into your new space. But more importantly, you will invariably not pull through far enough, leaving the back fourth of your car in your original parking space, thereby taking up two spaces. (For what it’s worth, this is most often done by large trucks with trailer hitches on the back. But good advice for those with small cars, too.)
  • There’s courteous, and there’s dangerous. Letting a fellow driver in when you are in a line of traffic that is creeping along? Courteous. Slamming on your brakes on a four-lane and fervently waving a fellow motorist in while everyone behind you locks up their brakes? Dangerous.
  • Turn signals are nature’s way of proving who is a liar. Never pull out in front of someone just because their turn signal is on.
  • Speaking of turn signals, if you do not use them appropriately 100 percent of the time, you will cause the engine to overheat and ruin the car. (Everyone just go with me on this one. I’m trying to build a better driver.)
  • Your horn can say different things. A peppy little “beep-beep” can say, “Hey, buddy, not sure if you saw the light was green, but thought I’d let you know!” Meanwhile, “BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP” says, “You have insulted my family and I challenge you to a duel at the next stoplight.” Best bet for new drivers — avoid the latter.
  • If a grocery bag in the back seat rolls during a turn, you took the turn too fast. If said bag contains my bucket of fried chicken from my local grocer’s Fried Chicken Friday sale, double foul. A $5 bucket of chicken is something you treat with respect.
  • Other people text and drive. They shouldn’t, but they do. But devoting your attention to someone who is texting and driving and launching into a tirade about how that person should put up their phone is almost as bad. Stay alert, and focus on driving, not the knucklehead posting to Facebook in the car next to you.

I feel certain she will be ready for her license when she is eligible in a few months. And I have complete confidence that she will be a competent driver when she takes the wheel without having me riding with her. I know it will be a little bit nerve-racking for her mom and me, but I have confidence we are giving her the skills and confidence necessary for when she needs to go to the store by herself to get shampoo. And conditioner. And apples.

Mike Gibbons was born and raised in Aiken, S.C. A graduate of the University of Alabama, he now lives in Charleston. You can e-mail him at or follow him on Twitter @StandardMike.

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