Meg, 19, and my eldest of four daughters, bought her first car just before Christmas.
As with so many things I have been realising of late, I only now am beginning to appreciate the anguish I put my own mother through as a young new driver.
Every time I left the house, keys to my fourth-hand, battered but beloved Austin Metro in hand, I heard the same phrase yelled out after me,
‘It’s not just you but everyone else on the road you have to worry about!’ a sentence that has actually gone through my mind pretty much every time I have attempted the North Circular as a responsible 30+ year old driver and all the years since.
Of course, for the thirteen or so years prior to any fear or safety awareness dawning on me, I was blissfully unaware of anyone else on the road. Sounds blaring from my one working, if extremely crackly speaker; ciggie in hand; no seatbelt; 8 or so mates crammed into the back of ‘Cruella’ (named by said mates as my driving style apparently bore more than a slight resemblance to Cruella Deville – my mother never knew this!).
Ambling in at 2am, after night whizzing up and down the Southend Arterial, chucking my keys on the table, smoke still in hand, I sometimes asked why mother was still up, as I headed to the kitchen for night time snacks.
Now I get it! Looking back, how on earth did she remain sane at all in those days before smart phones and family RAC membership?
Luckily, Meg is a lot more conscientious than I ever was at that age. And of course, I am hassling her constantly by text – berating her if she doesn’t reply immediately, then lecturing her she’s not texting while driving!
At then end of the day, if our young drivers are as careful as they can be, and abide by the safety rules, many dangers are out of our/their control.
We’re only 5 months into our new regime of me sleeping even less than usual, and Meg pulling over every 5 minutes to tell me to stop texting her, and we have already had 3 breakdowns. The first being a rookie error of leaving the lights on and draining the battery.
Ashamedly, despite being with Meg when said incident took place, and being the retailer of booster cables for young drivers and women, as well as lots of car safety products and gifts. And having ensured the car was stacked full of every one of these products before we had even left the car showroom forecourt, neither of us knew how to actually use the jump lead booster cables.
There’s a story for another time. But needless to say, we do now!
The good news is the cables are now only £8 a set. That’s an extra 20 minutes sleep for you and me!