When I was 16, I took drivers ed like most teens.
One morning during driving time, it was my turn behind the wheel. There were always two students at a time, and I remember Erin being my driving buddy. This particular trip we were going down the main street of town, and I didn't really give it much thought. What could I really learn driving 25 mph down the street in my small town?
I learned a lot.
Out of no where, a small child ran out into the road and ran right into the car. I say into the car because I was fortunate that we were just a tiny bit past the area she was running from so she was not in front of the car. Somehow she must have just ran into it and bounced back. I could hear her startled mother (or maybe freaked out is better term), and we stopped the car. Mr. Helms made sure the girl was ok, and she was.
But then there was me.
We had to switch drivers because I didn't want to drive anymore at that point. I was pretty upset, even though I did nothing wrong, and even though the girl was totally ok. I just couldn't believe that something like that could happen so fast, and I couldn't believe I didn't see her. I do know it's something that we discussed in class, to be very careful around parked cars on a road like that because you can't see small children darting out from behind them.
Maybe that's why I'm pretty cautious when driving. Maybe that's why people always tailgate me when I'm driving through neighborhoods or down a street where there are parked cars on the side. It's been...ahem...16 years since I've been in driver's ed, but I know it had a lasting impression on me. I don't speed. I don't dart in and out of traffic. If I'm in a hurry, as goody-goody as this might sound, I really do just count it as a blessing when I get stuck behind a slow vehicle and can't pass. It reminds me that I should just chill out and know that I'll get there when I get there.
Years later when my sister took drivers ed, she told me the story of the student Mr. Helms had that hit a child while driving. She told the story exactly as it happened. But she didn't know it was me - thanks to Mr. Helms for not sharing my name through the years...ha! When she was done, I told her that the person he was talking about was me, and I think she was stunned.
I have no idea why this story from my past has been in my head today. I've been thinking about it all day, maybe because it just upsets me when I see how people drive through neighborhoods or through parking lots. Maybe it's because I can't shake what happened recently in the St. Louis area when a 21-month-old was hit and killed in a parking lot...she was with her mom and three siblings...they were getting out of the van on their way to the doctor...
Please be careful...everywhere.
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