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The Juggle: Teenagers Should Drive Rubber Cars

I sometimes wonder if my teen drivers could pull out of a paper bag, and I've got the bills to prove it.

Here are some things that I would invent if I could just find the time: a self-cleaning refrigerator; zero-calorie Chardonnay and rubber cars for my teenage drivers.

The first two items would significantly improve my standard of living while the bouncy cars would help keep in check my steadily increasing car insurance premium.

Since my oldest child got his driver’s license almost two years ago, and his sister this past March, there have been a total of four claims made through our auto insurance carrier (you’re welcome, Mr. USAA and all his stockholders).

I’ve watched my daughter, flush with her newly issued driver’s permit, back directly into a Volvo SUV in our beach club parking lot last summer and then had the pleasure of dragging her around the hot sand in search of its owner.

Here’s a valuable lesson we learned that day: even though the little fender-bender seemed like a mere bump, the damage came to about $5,000. Initially, I though I’d pay for the repairs out-of-pocket. But after I hung up with the mechanic and finished weeping, I immediately called to report it to insurance, figuring that even if our premium did go up, it would be less of a hit on my wallet.

My son also has problems navigating parking lots. In his two years of driving, he’s smashed into his dad’s co-worker’s luxury sedan while trying to pull out of a tight parking space; scraped the side of a fellow diner’s car in a local pizza joint parking lot and recently, sideswiped his sister’s $400 car while trying to pull out of our driveway.

I know what you’re thinking, and I’m right there with you. What is wrong with my kids?

So imagine the ingenuousness of my original proposal: rubber cars for all. We could just bounce through all those minor traffic miscalculations, which would certainly cut down not only on damage inflicted but ultimately insurance costs and traffic fatalities. It’s a no-brainer. Sure, it might take some getting used to as we navigate the highways and back roads like a giant bumper car ride, but I’d be willing to forgo looks for safety and knowing my sketchy teenaged drivers were impervious to injuries.

I was recently finishing up a lunch with a high school friend when my cell rang and on the other line was my hysterical daughter sobbing that she’d just been in an accident. A heart-stopping moment to be sure.

But once I ascertained that everyone was okay, I couldn’t help feeling annoyed. “Really?” I thought. “Do I really have time for this and all the phone calls and paperwork involved, not to mention the costs?”

I rushed home to find her balled up on her bed and dragged her long body over to me for a hug and tried to suppress the urge to ask her what she was thinking about, pulling in front of an oncoming car at an intersection.

Later, I called the driver that my daughter hit (at almost slow-motion speed), who turned out to be a fellow mom in town, who had been heading home from the high school before the incident.

She laughed and assured me that she was okay, aside from the crunched-in side of her minivan, and said she had sympathized with my daughter, who was shaken by the accident.

The mom told me that it brought her back to her own junior year in high school, and how she had gotten into a car accident at an intersection near her home and then four months later, got into the same accident again.

I was right there with her, recalling my own spotty driving record those first few years with a license and learning to gauge the size of my vehicle and the weight of my foot on the accelerator.

I still have two more children who will someday join the ranks of drivers in our house and I cringe thinking of what lays in store for my auto insurance future.

But I still have about nine years until the youngest is eligible for his license, which could be just enough time needed to develop the rubber car. I’ll be in the basement if you need me.

maryann morris July 07, 2011 at 02:22 AM
Kids need more hours behind the wheel with a driving school than only 6.Half the kids come out pretty good the other half need like 20 to 30 hours more!! I own a driving school. If they take more lessons they can only get better!!It saves money in car insurance later.Believe me!! Let us fix them....we know how.But get someone good that really cares.
Gavino July 07, 2011 at 12:46 PM
Welcome to the club! I've been seriously proposing "rubber cars" for more than 30 years. There are other solutions as well, that could leverage "space age" materials. But everyone has their economic interests - body shops, metal suppliers, mining concerns, etc.- including the commenter who owns a driving school - her solution, not surprisingly, is more driving lessons! We pay for these arrangements not just in terms of higher premiums, but in lives. That should never be far from our minds...
Shannon K. Winning July 07, 2011 at 06:18 PM
The best thing about my first car, a 12 yr old Honda prelude, was the black rubber bumpers. They safely saw me through my crash course in parallel parking in Red Bank. When I graduated college, my parents, God bless their generosity, gave me a new Honda (which my husband still drives today, 15 yrs later.) I remember being ecstatic at the thought of new wheels and equally terrified of scratching the painted bumpers. Whose idea was that anyway?

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