David Loffredo is a longtime Westporter. He recently moved to the Fairfield Beach area. The roads are wider and straighter there — and he still has a 3rd daughter to teach how to drive. He writes:
They’re so cute when they’re young.
You remember all the firsts. That first swim lesson at the Y, or the first time they’re independent on the Compo playground. The first kindergarten bus ride, the first time playing on a team, or the first time up on stage. And on and on and on.
Good times. Fun times. Great memories. Rites of passage.
Then they grow up.
And sometime toward the end of middle school their older friends start getting their learner’s permits, and the inevitable “will you take me driving?” question echoes at the dinner table.
Will you take me driving? Those might be 5 of the scariest words ever uttered by someone I’d much rather take back to her first swim lesson.
But we do it. We all do it.
Most of us head to the parking lot at Longshore, or Compo, or Staples. We drive in circles and look out for joggers. And we think okay, mission accomplished, on to driver’s ed after you turn 16, with their professional instructors and brightly colored official cars.
Except that’s not exactly how it works. What you’ll learn (or what you’ve already learned, brave souls who have gone before) is that you are responsible for a bunch of hours behind the wheel with your newly minted permit holder, in your car, on our roads.
So we do it. We all do it. White-knuckled and tightly buckled, we strap in shotgun, turn off the radio, and guide our apprehensive yet naively enthusiastic novices out into the wild. We take comfort that we’re not alone, as each year roughly 600 Westporters turn 16 and get their permits.
Let that sink in. There are 600 of us out there.
But really it’s not so bad. They drive the speed limit, or within a few miles of it. They come to a complete stop at stop signs. They slow down when the light turns yellow. They yield. They’re courteous. They don’t text or talk on the phone. In short, they actually follow the traffic laws most locals have long since ignored.
So – stop tailgating my kid. And everyone else’s kid.
Almost every time we go out driving — and it’s almost every day now — cars race up behind us. They flash their lights, toot their horns, weave in some feigned attempt at passing. I wonder who they are, and what could be so urgent. When I see a Jeep in the rearview mirror, I assume it’s a Staples kid only recently removed from this process who quickly forgets how intimidating it was. When I see a big SUV with a parent behind the wheel, I wonder how they’ll react when the kid in their back seat is sitting in their drivers’ seat.
So please: Ease up when you see a driver strictly following the rules of the road. Pay it forward if you have young kids. Pay it backwards if you’ve been through this already.
We all win, if these kids learn good habits from the start.