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  • Danielle Castaneda, CRADC, MAATP, SAP

The importance of driving

Getting a Driver's License is exciting. Losing it is devastating. Getting it back is difficult.

Driver's seat

I remember as a teenager I would pack up my father's big GMC conversion van and drive 8 of my friends to Six Flags multiple times in the summer. Each and every time, I enjoyed the drive, the freedom and the company that traveled with me. Over the past ten years, I have taken my children to travel through twenty six states with 90% of travel being in a car or RV. I found that road trips are much cheaper when you are traveling in groups of four to eight people. I also found that you gain a connection with your children that you would not have normally had. I have learned so much about them and their lives as we have sat in cars for hours in states that don't have cellular services.

My oldest son started driver's education eight years ago. Since my husband is a hard working man who is away from home often as a commercial truck driver, I made him the point man for anything related to driving and/or vehicle maintenance. But don't get me wrong, I have done my own tune-up, cleaned the intake manifold, etc. I wanted to reinforce that their father was always there for them and give them a lifelong topic of discussion.

My oldest son dodged the graduated driving permit by six months. His father took him to do all of his driving requirements. I don't remember getting in the car with that kid driving until he was 18 years old. And for that reason, he didn't end up getting his license until he was 17. On the day he was ready to be come a licensed driver, it was my husband and my father who took him. As soon as they pulled out of the parking lot of the DMV, with my son behind the wheel with his 5 minute old license, he was pulled over. It turned out that the two older men in the vehicle didn't put their seat belts on.

4 years later, my second son was enrolled in driver's education and again, I left the basic education up to my husband. This time, I let my son drive me everywhere with his permit. Beside the normal running around, he drove from Wisconsin to Kentucky for the eclipse in 2017. The 7 hour drive home turned into a 17 hour drive due to traffic. Because bumper to bumper traffic triggers my inner demons, I decided that we were going to drive the back roads of Illinois. (A trip that I highly recommend.... only doing one time in your life.) He drove 12 of those hours with a rented trailer on what appeared to be a road on GPS but turned out to be dirt paths. I woke up a couple of times because of the bumpy ride saying "What happened?" But it was one of our most memorable trips and one we will repeat for the next eclipse. This time, I will have no intention of leaving on the day of the event.

He even drove through the mountains of Mexico while on vacation. For what the locals do not even think about, this Illinois girl shuts her eyes and prays as large semi trucks pass slower moving cars on two lane highways with hundred foot cliffs as the only emergency lane. Some of the roads in the valley of the mountains are one car roads with only a few feet of drop off on each side of the lane. At least on most of those streets, you can see the car coming from down the mountain or vise versa. But if you don't see each other earlier, you find yourself looking at each other trying to figure out which of the two drivers are going to put their car in reverse.

As most of his friends were still too scared to drive on highways, my son told stories of how he drove his father's SUV onto a curvy, dead end, dirt "road" and was swarmed by angry bees that somehow managed to get into the cab of the car. In a half panic, he threw the car into reverse and hit the gas to escape. By doing so, he scratched up both sides of the car on a over grown trees and shrubs. Of course, being the mother I am, I started recording it. I sent his father the video of me laughing and yelling to "Slow down!" and my son yelling "How are they getting in the car?" as his voice cracked in fear.

But I realized how I take my own license for granted. I have played taxi to my children for over a decade. I ask my kids all the time "Where are these kids parents? Why am I always the one who has to drive everyone home at night?" But when my twenty year old niece and her two small children came to stay with me, I realized just how important it is to have a driver's license when you live in the suburbs. With two small children and no driver's license, even going to the "corner" store for baby food is an exhausting hour long journey. Asking the four licensed driver's in my house does not guarantee that you can get a ride. So then you have to ask the rest of your family that live close by.

Last night, on my way home from work, I got a phone call from my sister-in-law who also doesn't have a driver's license. Between calling all of the licensed drivers in the house, my sixteen year old was the only person who could drive his aunt to work so that she would not be late. But that meant that he would have to leave the restaurant that just brought out his food and leave his friends there to eat until he got back to the restaurant. When everyone finally got home, we had a family meeting about what today's plan was for everyone and I turned to my husband and said "You need to take her (my niece) out driving and get her ready to get her license." Even my fifteen year old daughter, who doesn't think she needs a license since she has Grandpa, Daddy and two other brothers to cater to her, agreed that her cousin needed to drive.

Looking at an over fifty year old grandma, a twenty year old single mother and a fifteen year old young lady who have to rely on others, I realized that no matter how old you are or what the situation you have, a driver's license is your link to self-reliance and freedom.

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