Cars are often a cause of friction between young people and their families. Sometimes parents just don’t seem to realize how important a car can be to a teen-ager. And conversely, teen-agers don’t understand why parents feel such anxiety and concern over their use of the family car. If most of the young men you know have access to a car, it seems even more unreasonable if you are not permitted to drive. Cars often cause problems among teen-agers themselves. If you are responsible for the family car, haven’t you had the difficult experience of explaining to a friend why you can’t permit him to borrow it?
A BOY AND HIS CAR
Many teen-age boys today feel keenly the need to own, or have access to, a car. Driving a car gives a boy a sense of power. It helps him feel important. He has something to show off. Many girls make a fuss over a boy who drives. A boy may feel that a girl will not date him unless he has a car. Young men who are mechanically inclined want something they can work on, take apart, and put back together. Some fellows spend hour after hour in the garage tinkering with their cars.
The Family Car
Unfortunately there is often disagreement over the use of the family car. Father may feel that you are too young to drive by yourself. Even if you are of legal age, your parents may think that you’re not responsible enough to be trusted with the family car. Dad knows that the insurance rates are higher because there are more accidents among teen-age drivers. For this reason he may feel that it’s too soon for you to drive. Even if you understand and agree with your parents’ feelings, you may still have a longing to drive. There are so many more places you could go. Your girl seems to want to go by car, so what can you do?
Using the family car often proves more difficult than having a car of your own. Maybe your parents want to use the car the same night you do. Perhaps you have brothers and sisters who also use the car. When you feel you really need the car, it’s hard to realize that other members of the family may also feel they need it. Since it’s not usually possible for everyone to have his own car, some sort of compromise needs to be worked out.
To avoid the constant disagreements about who will use the family car, it’s a good idea to work out arrangements ahead of time. Possibly you will each choose a definite night when you will have use of the car. As special events come up, you can request permission in advance to use the car.
Your Own Car!
While having your own car is more convenient, it means added responsibility for you. You must be able to assume the cost of purchase and maintenance. You will be the one who has to keep it in running condition. You are responsible for insurance, gas, and repairs. Even if you fix it yourself, you have to pay for parts.
Despite the added responsibility, owning a car may be very important to you. Your parents may not appreciate having their car “souped up” by you and your friends. If it’s your own car, you may tinker as you wish, or paint it any color you like. Also, the added prestige may be important to you.
Parents are often concerned about teen-agers going on car dates too soon. And they have good reason. The fact is that some teen-agers are not prepared sufficiently for car dates. Regardless of how much you want to drive, if you are not old enough to get a license you should not risk driving a car. Here are some other things you and your parents may want to consider together.
Your Parents’ Consent
You may feel that you are responsible enough to drive a car. Your parents may have a different view. The question is why? Perhaps you haven’t proved yourself responsible in other ways? If your mother still has to pick up after you around the house, it’s understandable if she feels you won’t be responsible with a car. If you forget to come home in time for dinner, your dad may think that you’ll also forget to fill the car with gas or check the oil and water. Before permitting you to go on car dates, your parents have to be sure that you are mature enough to accept the responsibilities.
Once you have proved you can take responsibility for other things, your parents may be willing to discuss your use of the car. When you talk with your parents about using a car you may want to have clear-cut understandings about just what your responsibilities are. Who will pay for the gas? What about the increased rate in insurance? Who will be responsible for scratches or dents in the fender? Many parents feel that if they have a definite understanding about these responsibilities, the arrangement is more feasible. In some communities there is a printed agreement which both the son and father sign, designating the responsibilities each assumes. You and your father could make one up yourselves.
The same holds true for girls who want to go on car dates. When you step into a car you are just as responsible as the driver for what goes on. If your parents are convinced that both you and your date will adhere to safety rules and speed limits, they will feel better about it. It will also be up to you to get home on time so that your parents don’t worry. If you’re delayed, you are probably expected to do them the courtesy of calling and explaining. If your parents permit only a limited number of car dates, it is up to you to stick by that agreement. Riding around recklessly during your school lunch hour may only convince your folks that you are not ready for such dates. Often cars are filled with so many teenagers that driving becomes dangerous. You may have to realize that this chance is not worth taking.
School and College Regulations
Even if you have your parents’ consent to go on car dates, it may still be forbidden on your college campus. There are very good reasons for this, and it pays to respect the rules. In this case you must limit your driving to vacations and to week ends when you’re home. So far as college girls are concerned, if your campus rules against it, it’s easier to say “No” to a car ride than to explain to parents and teachers why you didn’t conform to school policies.
Before you undertake to drive, be sure that you are properly prepared. Have you had driving lessons from a competent instructor? Do you have knowledge of the state rules and regulations? Are you sure of what the various warning street signs mean? Many high schools and colleges offer courses in driving. These are a great help. If you are taught by a member of your family, some further research may help give you a complete understanding of what is expected of you when you drive. Driving without a license is both irresponsible and illegal. Parents and young people are wise to insist that only licensed drivers handle a car. Ignorance of the law is no excuse, as many teen-age drivers have learned to their sorrow.
The Right Attitude
No matter how great your driving skill is, you may still be far from ready to drive. Your attitude can literally mean the difference between life and death. Do you believe in driving carefully? Are you convinced that juvenile “car games” such as “chicken” are dangerous? Cars are a means of transportation; they are not toys to play with or means for showing off. The papers are filled with stories of young people who died or were seriously hurt trying to prove to their dates how fast they could drive, or trying to “outrun” the police. Actually you prove nothing by taking chances except your unreadiness to drive at all.
Girls, too, must be psychologically ready for car dates. Before you go off on a joy ride, do you consider how well you know the driver? Will he respect your wishes about safety precautions? Do you feel you would have the courage to get out of a car if a boy threatened to drive recklessly? Your life might depend on it. It’s up to a girl to let her date know that she is definitely NOT interested in watching the speedometer climb or racing another car. Without being rude, she can let the driver know that she considers unsafe driving childish. If she cannot convince the boy, which is rarely the case, she can insist that he stop the car and let her out.
Knowledge of the basic rules of driving safety, and being concerned about following them, is very important. When you are driving, drive. The driver’s seat is no place for games, for necking, or for proving your power. You can’t concentrate on other things and still be a safe driver. A girl has to keep this in mind too. If she wants to be sure of getting home that night, she shouldn’t snuggle up too close while her date is driving. Distracting the driver can cause accidents. The car is a powerful machine; it can be safe or it can be deadly. It all depends on you.
Speeding Is Murder
Speeding is one of the most frequent causes of accidents. Most states designate speed limits in all areas. The speed laws tell you the maximum speed at which it is safe to drive.
On dark nights, on unfamiliar roads, you will probably want to drive considerably under the limit. Whether or not there is a speed limit, you must be extremely careful not to drive faster than is safe. You would not consider stabbing someone with a knife, but speeding can be just as murderous. Again, a girl shares her car date’s responsibility. If she lets the boy drive too fast, she shares the guilt if an accident occurs.
Courtesy on the Road
Courtesy on the road is important because it’s the only safe way to drive. If you don’t let the driver ahead of you get in line, you may cause a bad collision. If you refuse to give the right of way, you may not have another chance. Regardless of where you are, courtesy is expected and expedient. In a car, it is even more important.
HOW ABOUT BORROWING A CAR?
Sometimes, if the family car is not available, you may be tempted to try to borrow a car. You might consider asking your girls’ parents to lend you their car. If they consent, because they trust you, then you come to a definite understanding with them as to what you will be responsible for. Naturally you will want to drive especially carefully and handle the car cautiously, as you would treat anything that belongs to someone else.
In most cases it’s not a good idea to lend or to borrow cars. If you have use of the family car, you would be taking a chance in lending it to someone else. Even if you know your friend to be a safe driver, it’s better not to let him have your car. If someone ran into the auto, through no fault of your friend, you might still have a tough time explaining it to your folks. And you might lose your car privileges altogether.
Borrowing a friend’s car can be just as bad. If there is an accident, whether or not you are to blame, you may find yourself in a tight spot. You could be the cause of your friend’s losing his car or his right to drive. If the car doesn’t have proper insurance you may be in real trouble. Borrowing a car is just too risky.
When you accept the responsibility of driving a car on dates, you want to do what is expected of you. Helping a girl into and out of the car is the courteous thing to do. Espedaily if she’s dressed up, she may need your help to prevent soiling her dress.
Honking Is for Geese
Parking before a girl’s house and honking your horn is discourteous. The thing to do is to go to the door to meet your date. If her parents are home, you should go in and speak with them a moment before leaving. Let them know the details of the date, assure them that you will drive carefully, and tell them when you will be home. Your date’s parents may still be uneasy about car dates. If you show some responsibility in calling for their daughter properly, they have more trust in you.
A girl can let her date know that she doesn’t approve of honking. She remains in the house until he calls for her in the accepted manner. Or she can go to the door and say, “Hi, Joe, come on in.” Although a boy may be nervous about meeting a girl’s parents for the first time, inwardly he is flattered by her action. Once he knows what she expects of him, he naturally goes to the door to get her.
After a pleasant evening it’s natural to want to sit a while in front of a girl’s house and talk. Many parents, however, are concerned when they see the car parked out front too long. Also, neighbors may get the wrong impression when these sessions last more than a few minutes. If your parents are up and you want to talk some more, invite your date in for a Coke or cocoa.
It’s up to the girl to ring down the curtain on a date. When they arrive at her home, she can signal that she’s not interested in prolonged car conversations by opening the car door.
At this point, the boy walks his date to the door, and unless he’s invited in, makes his brief good night and leaves.
Parking and Petting
Parents and teen-agers alike are concerned about “parking.” Many questions come up regarding whether or not to park, and how to prevent unfortunate incidents in a car. When you start to drive, the responsibility for “safe parking” as well as safe driving is both yours and your date’s. For a detailed discussion of this problem, see page 173.
A boy should not feel out of things if he doesn’t have a car for dates. When it comes down to cases, most girls would much rather go by bus than not go out at all. If a boy is fun to be with, his having a car is not too important to the girl.
An enterprising lad does not let the lack of a car keep him from asking a girl for a date. There are many things you can do without a car. If you live in a place with nearby public transportation, the problem is simple. Even if you live in a rural area without buses, streetcars, or trains, you are still not cut off from activities. You can usually get a lift from someone with a car, and for special events your parents probably would be glad to drive you.
You can always plan interesting dates at home, and you may even enjoy just going for a long walk. Some teen-agers bicycle into town for a movie just for the fun of it. Especially in good weather, you may want to plan dates which involve hiking or biking.
Having a car for dates is fun when the car is used correctly. But like a lot of money, it’s not really necessary for a good time.