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What's So Sweet About Giving 16 Year Olds Cars?

This Naperville mom doesn't get why parents are so eager to buy their new teen drivers cars.

My first car was a Ford Pinto. It was traffic-sign yellow and had a stick shift transmission so I couldn’t even drive it home after buying it. But it was mine, all mine, bought with $500 of my own hard-earned cash. I had it painted bright blue and spent a weekend learning to drive it. I was just out of my freshman year in college.

It makes me feel like an old crank, but I’m amazed at how many of my son’s friends have been given brand new cars. These are kids who just got their driver’s licenses. In other words, 16-year-old children with little more than 60 hours behind the wheel are getting wheels of their own.

I had heard that kids all had their own cars, but I guess part of me just didn’t really believe it. When I told my husband about our son’s friends, he had a similar reaction to mine, along the lines of “you’re freaking kidding me.”

Our son felt us out about buying him a car. He quickly shifted to pointing out all the reasons we should buy a second car for the family to share. When I noted that we already successfully share one car and can’t afford a second car, he piped down, but I’m pretty sure the pressure will be on again once he’s fully licensed.

I know my son’s friends. They are great kids, but I also know that teens are statistically a bad lot when they get behind the wheel. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens. In 2009, about 3,000 teens in the US were killed in motor-vehicle crashes. In contrast, heroin overdose killed 2,000 people—adults and teens.

Teens are four times more likely than older drivers to crash. That risk is particularly high during the first year that teens are eligible to drive. I’m not saying my son and his friends shouldn’t drive at all but there is no way I’m giving my son 24/7 access to something that is a proven killer, particularly of boys.

Maybe I’m deluded, but I believe that when my son has to ask permission to drive my car, he will drive more carefully. Certainly, I’ll have more control over when he drives and, to some extent, where. He’s welcome to the car when I’m not using it and for as long as he drives responsibly. My hope is that by the time he’s saved enough money to buy his own car, he’ll have matured enough to handle the freedom having his own set of wheels will give him.

I have lots of fond—and not so fond—memories of my old car. Fitting a bunch of sorority girls into it for a pancake run stands out. Breaking down on I-57 on Easter Sunday is a low light. But the most important thing I remember about it is that I earned it.

Would you buy your teen a car? Who bought you your first car? Tell us in comments.

The Sentinel June 08, 2012 at 07:38 PM
Gee Jennifer, you're right. I've pretty much glossed over your commsnts and I missed that. I'm so used to your pattering that I didn't pay attantion when I should have. I truly am about 3/4 blind, whiich is no excuse but possibly a reason why I didn't read your comment more closely. I was unaware there was another "topic" board about the accident. I was also unaware there were nasty comments" there...I'd probably have been just as appalled as you were. Had I known, I'd have asked Patch to stop the comments on that article. Did you? That said, I wonder if you were as verbose on THAT article as you were/are here because that piece would hve been much more important to comment on than this topic. So Jennifer, mea culpa. I am quite sure we will "meet" again here and I'll likely be as disagreeable with your opinion as I was here. Good day.
Jennifer June 08, 2012 at 08:34 PM
No, I did not leave comments on that board, I e-mailed the Patch directly, as did many others. And yes, that was a much more dire board, especially to the families and friends of the young adults who passed. And no, I won't be meeting you here, it's not my "thing". But if you're 3/4 blind, and you're doing this well on these boards, you're an inspiration!
The Sentinel June 08, 2012 at 09:11 PM
Really? This isn't your "thing"? I'll bet the rent there will be another article somewhere down the road that you'll feel the need to comment on. But if I do see you posting, I won't be commenting unless I have another viewpoint. I don't post just to post and I also don't post just to give another poster a tough time. So...I do hope you consider posting when you feel the urge. Yes, I am truly about 3/4 blind. One eye is dead and the other has only about 40% vision...and that is slowly seeping away. I have my screen set up especially for me...latrger type, black background with white type. I tend, as you may have noticed, to make typos, which I try to catch. I am not always successful, Thanks but I don't feel like an "inspiration". Boards like this one happen to make it possible for me to interact with other people, which I enjoy, even though I may be opposed to what I read. They give me a voice. I was the editor of a small magazine and I had my own column, in which I sometimes presented my opinion. So I had plenty of people telling me I was correct BUT also plenty telling me I was all wet. It didn't matter...I still enjoyed it. It is a nice day out there. Enjoy it. Be well.
Tommy O June 09, 2012 at 01:17 PM
Sentinel: This idea may help you with your posts. Open a word processing application like Microsoft Word. Type in the comment you intend to post. Run a spelling & grammar check under the Review tab. Highlight the entire comment. Cut and paste (or copy and paste) your comment to Patch. It will not catch all errors, and obscure punctuation symbols may not translate perfectly, but it offers the advantage of a larger window to see your post before you submit it to Patch.
The Sentinel June 09, 2012 at 04:33 PM
Thanks very much, Tommy. I'll give it a try, even though I'm not computer savvy. Have a nice weekend.

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