Road Rules

My Teen Just Got His Drivers Permit, And Wow, People Drive Like Jerks

Guys, there’s learners on the road. Chill out.

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My sixteen-year-old just got his driving permit after taking driver’s ed. Now it’s up to me to help him hone his driving skills. We are currently picking away at the 70 hours he has to spend on the road before he can get his license, as required by the state of Maine.

Yesterday, we were stopped at a red light. As soon as the arrow turned green, my son asked if he had the right of way. No sooner had I finished telling him that it was safe and a green light meant he had the right-of-way then a car behind him laid on their horn. First of all, laying on your horn should be saved for times when someone swerves into your lane, not if the person in front of you doesn’t go as soon as the light turns green. Secondly, he only hesitated to go for less than two seconds.

This is something that has irked me since I was on the road with my oldest, four years ago. A lot of his driving hours were spent in the wintertime on snowy roads in New England. The number of times he was beeped at or flashed because he wasn’t going fast enough for the person behind him infuriated me. My son was being cautious and learning to drive on snow-filled roads and ice. And that’s exactly what he should have been doing: It takes experience to know how much you can safely hit the gas or the brakes when the roads are slick.

I get people are in a hurry. Or late. But when you lose your patience and feel the need to honk and swerve in and out of traffic and speed by someone who is driving the speed limit, you are way more dangerous than the person not going as fast as you’d like.

Your aggressive driving can distract them and make them nervous causing them to slow down even more. There are many different drivers on the road. Distracted parents trying to wrangle kids in the back seat, elderly folks who might be feeling nervous, drivers who could be suffering PTSD after a recent car accident, and new drivers like my teen. And there are regular people on the road who aren’t running late and have allowed themselves enough time to get to their destination. They are going the speed limit and don’t feel the need to accelerate as fast as you’d like them to.

Our teenagers deserve to be on roads where they feel safe to learn to drive without someone tailgating them, beeping at them, or yelling things out their window. If you see a teen parallel parking, be patient. If you notice someone isn’t going as soon as the light turns green, count to three before you honk at them. And if you are stuck behind someone going too slow for you, do you really think shining your brights at them is going to make them go any faster?

Yes, there are times when people need to be reminded because they are zoned out at a light. But please, let’s give people a little grace and drive as if it was your child learning in front of you. Give people a few extra seconds before you get all horn-happy on them.

Katie Bingham-Smith is a full-time freelance writer living in Maine with her three teens and two ducks. When she’s not writing she’s probably spending too much money online and drinking Coke Zero.