Baby, You Can Drive My Car

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.

This is not David Loffredo and his daughter. But it could be.

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.

19 responses to “Baby, You Can Drive My Car

  1. The best purchase I made when our daughters had their learner’s permits was a bright yellow “student driver” magnet that I placed on the back of the car. We noticed a huge decrease in the number of other drivers that would tailgate, honk, flash lights at us, etc. Well worth the $10 on Amazon!

  2. Keep in mind too that the elderly are scrupulous about following the rules of the road. Don’t tailgate them either.
    A. David W. Staples 1956

  3. Great article and comment!!

  4. Mary Cookman Schmerker Staples '58

    The Student Driver magnet is a wonderful idea. With three teen age grandchildren drivers in waiting this is wonderful to know about. The post brings back many memories. I have a summer birthday. My Dad would not allow me to get my drivers license for almost a year so he could take me to Compo in the winter and have me practice ice and snow driving before launching off on my own with out that experience.

  5. I like when student drivers have stickers on their cars to that effect. Good reminder to the rest of us!!

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

  6. Let me step on a soap box:
    One of the best investments for training your teenager is the Tirerack Street Survival program. http://streetsurvival.org/

    These events are held all over the country including Connecticut. They teach young driver to learn techniques that will help them avoid driving incidents as well as how to respond when things go wrong. It is only for young adults (16-21 permitted and licensed drivers), so us adults will have to sign up for a more traditional training course. Your child is your most valuable possession, having them learn and practice these skills is the best money you will spend on them. Okay I’ll step off now.

    PS: Looking on the website there is program scheduled for May 12th at the Consumer’s Reports facility (it is a pretty neat place to boot) in conjunction with the Connecticut Valley Region of the BMWCCA.

    Disclaimer: I’m a member of the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA), and the BMW Car Club of America (BMWCCA) and a frequent customer of Tirerack.

  7. This reminds me of a bumper sticker I saw a few days ago: “You don’t HAVE to be rude to live in Westport”. Anybody know where I can get one?

  8. My newly licensed daughter (who is also an emt in town) was recently involved in a hit and run on the Sherwood Island connector. She was shocked people would do such a thing. Tough lesson to learn at 16 that adults are the lousy and irresponsible drivers.

  9. WRT the hit & run, I’d suggest getting a dash cam for any/all cars. It can give the police great information on who might be at fault and capture a license plate number. Forward and rear facing units are ideal. Plus if you see a meteor falling from the sky you can share it on youtube. 🙂

  10. Carol Lupo-Simek

    Speed limits in this town seems to have no effect on Westport drivers. A 25 mile an hour limit turns into 45. If everyone weren’t in a big hurry al the time, tailgating wouldn’t be such an issue. People sometimes have to stop short for all kinds of reasons. No matter who is in front of you, tailgating is annoying and dangerous.

  11. When a car behind me is so close that I hold my breath, I turn on my flashers. It doesn’t always work but I have watched (in my rear mirror) a mom sitting next to her son driving and her talking to him and he slowed down.

  12. Several digs at Westport and Westport drivers. This driving experience written about took and takes place in Fairfield! There are nasty drivers everywhere. And there are rude people everywhere.
    How about looking at the many positives in Westport and among its residents.
    There are many!!

    • David J. Loffredo

      Actually we drive daily in Westport to/from her dance class and I find the Wepo drivers to be significantly more aggressive than those in Fairfield.

  13. Wasn’t the point. Your blog started in Fairfield . And really how can you tell that those “aggressive” drivers are from Westport? BY THE WAY, I have experience at many 4 way stops in Fairfield, where nobody seems to know what too do. Oh, they must be from Westport.

  14. I meant, to ,not too.
    P

  15. “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”. Is he aware that the age to obtain a learner’s permit is 16? So while he is complaining about people “not following the rules of the road”, he is admitting that he is not either by allowing his underage child drive in circles in parking lots.

    • Valerie — the writer clearly writes “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 yes, he is driving with a child that holds a learner’s permit — not driving illegally!

      • I guess this is what confused me, “And we think okay, mission accomplished, on to driver’s ed after you turn 16,”. I read it that he took his child driving in parking lots before they were 16. I was confused why the story said he took the child driving in parking lots, avoiding joggers and then it’s on to driver’s ed after you turn 16.

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