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Teenage drivers: Keep an eye out for yayhoos — and dad


Mark Rutledge

Saturday, March 3, 2018

I have one teenage daughter driving and two about to start. For at least the past four years leading up to this worrisome milestone, every trip across town with my daughters has been a potential lesson in defensive driving.

“Notice that I look both ways even though I have the right of way,” I often point out when the light turns green at a busy intersection. “Always be on the lookout for some yayhoo to come blowing through the intersection.”

That particular sermon is inspired by a man who very nearly took me out of this world in 1980. I was driving my 1970 Volkswagen Bug and waiting for the green light at a busy intersection where two lanes cross four. The light turned green, and I proceeded without first looking to make fully certain that the cross traffic had stopped.

Had I merely glanced to my left before pressing the accelerator, I would have seen the pickup speeding toward the intersection in an attempt to beat the red light. I did not see the truck until it flashed in front of me, taking with it my VW’s fenders, headlights, and bumper.

“Two more feet into that intersection,” I have often stressed to my girls, “and YOU would not be here.”

It’s a powerful delivery that never gets old.

As upset as I was with the pickup driver at the time, he is largely responsible for giving me the defensive driving skills I have used to avoid countless other crashes since. One of those skills is realizing that everyone else on the road is a potential yayhoo and should never be trusted to do the right thing.

However, I never really considered my own full potential for being a yayhoo.

On a recent rainy Saturday outing with my twins, I was the one blowing through the intersection. It was not a busy crossroad but one where I was supposed to stop. Metal crunched, airbags deployed, and nerves were shattered.

No one was injured, but a big part of me may never fully recover. Maybe that’s for the best.

I never even saw the stop sign because I broke the very rules I so often stress to my young driving apprentices. I did not stay focused, I was not aware of my surroundings, and I let myself become distracted.

What hurts the most is that I did not do my No. 1 job as a dad. I’m supposed to protect my girls from danger, not place them squarely in front of it.

My pride is bruised for sure, but all is not lost. My girls have experienced first hand how an experienced, safety conscious driver can so easily make a huge mistake.

The responding police officer said that due to my otherwise clean record, I should qualify for a defensive driving course that will help limit the moving-violation points against my license.

I don’t know what they can possibly teach me that my girls and I have not already learned through the school of hard knocks, but I’m in.

Contact Mark Rutledge at mrutledge@reflector.com, or like him on Facebook at Mark Rutledge Columns.

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