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Driving the wheel of change

chandigarh Updated: Dec 20, 2013 09:38 IST
Sona Sethi
Sona Sethi
Hindustan Times
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When you hand over the keys of the family car for the very first time to the most precious person in the world, your child, you know it is going to be quite a ride.

I am an apprehensive mother of a new teen driver. On getting her learner's permit, her joy was boundless and confidence brimming. For me, the emotions have swayed between the realms of dread and exhilaration.

I have stopped going to the gym now. That's because I get to work out every time my child drives. My heart races so fast that I feel it might actually slip out of my mouth. My legs get plenty of exercise from slamming on the imaginary brake pedal on the passenger side. My arms have never been so toned; it's from all the clutching onto the door handle as I hold on to dear life. My nerves no longer seem to be made of steel, in fact, at the moment they've turned to jelly.

I'll be honest. My daughter has been an attentive learner so far. But I'm a mother and my first instinct is not to let her come to any harm. So I consider it my duty to vigilantly look out for all trouble spots and let her know about them. At times, only to hear, "But mom that stalled car is on the other side of the road!"

There have been times when I stopped myself from trying to steer the wheel from the passenger side. But every single time she handles the car smoothly, follows all driving rules, does not let other drivers frazzle her and brings us home safe and sound, I feel a sense of immense pride and accomplishment.

Maybe my fears are not so misplaced. According to statistics given by the California department of motor vehicles, drivers in the age group of 16-19 years have the greatest risk of traffic accidents and fatalities. Why is that so? The website goes on to give several reasons based on studies conducted; the major one being that teenagers are not apt at anticipating hazardous situations.

They tend to take more risks and being novice drivers they lack experience. Now you add drugs and alcohol or even text messaging while driving to the mix and that's a recipe for disaster. According to the website, in 2010 in the US, seven teen drivers died of fatal crashes every single day.

Similarly, India now has the worst traffic accident rate according to the data provided by the World Health Organisation, with an annual fatality rate of 1.3 lakh per year.

Driving a vehicle is a huge responsibility for anyone let alone young adults. If I had my way I would walk in front of my daughter's car and move all potential hazards out of her way. But being a parent is not only about giving your child roots but it is also about giving them freedom and the wheels to drive through the beautiful journey that we call life.