“You don’t have to do that,” my daughter said with an annoyed tone of voice.
I pretended not to know what she was talking about, but she could not help but see me stretch my right foot forward, as if putting on the brake. Since I was in the passenger seat, she took my twitching as evidence that I was uncomfortable with that.
Not true. She’s actually an excellent driver. She had a lot of practice last summer, when I broke my right toe and enlisted her as my chauffeur, taking me to and from grocery shopping and doctors’ appointments. By the time she got her license, her dad and I felt comfortable letting her take the keys for short drives.
But driving me to LAX — and then driving all the way back home by herself — is a really big step. And as much as I trust her, after 40 years of my own driving, I cannot help certain reflexive movements when some car cuts in front of us a little too close for my own comfort.
“Maddy says her mom wouldn’t let her drive to the airport.”
Maddy is her cousin, who lives in the Sacramento area, and it did not surprise me to hear that my sister wouldn’t go for that. You need to take a busy freeway to get to their airport. We were making the trip to LAX on Sepulveda, the longest street in the city, which starts all the way up near our home in the north San Fernando Valley and ends in the South Bay, somewhere past the airport. This drive would be no different from meeting her friends on Ventura Boulevard — except that it’s longer. And winds through the Santa Monica Mountains. And is prone to very busy traffic.
Ok, so maybe there was a little reason to worry.
Today’s teen drivers are issued provisional licenses, which limit their driving privileges for a year while they gain experience on the road. I learned at this year’s Lifesaver Conference that this is key to a reduction in accidents by new drivers in states that have this kind of program. Her provisional license period will end in a couple of months, and them she will have fewer restrictions on driving passengers around. And in another few months, she will turn 18 and become a legal adult.
She lives in a big city with lots of big city things she will want to do, so I want her to know how to get around. We just need to take baby steps around it. And that’s why I had her take me to the airport about four hours ahead of my flight to Chicago. And when we got to LAX, we made an extra loop around the terminals so she would know how to get back on Sepulveda and on her way home.
“Don’t forget to text me when you’re home,” I told her as I got out of the car. She waved to me and I watched her drive away before I called my husband to let him know she got me to the airport safely.
I assured him that at this time of day, traffic was light.
“I don’t like this,” he said. “I need a Valium.” He was joking, but he sort of meant it.
Ninety minutes later, I got her text: “Home now.”
So now I can relax.
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