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Young drivers: A life is in your hands

By Joseph R. Bruckner

© St. Petersburg Times, published July 26, 2000

Several months ago my 16-year-old grandson, who lives in Pittsburgh, passed his driver's test.

Considering the extremely high accident rate experienced by novice drivers, I decided to write the following letter to him.

After doing so I thought that perhaps it might be worth sharing with other young drivers. Or, possibly, we could all, myself included, benefit from saying these six simple words each time we begin our daily drive: "A life is in your hands."

Dear Steve,

Well -- you finally have it. You've thought about it, dreamed about it and fantasized about it for so long, perhaps since you were 15 or 14 or 12 -- maybe even 10. And now it's finally, really yours. A driver's license.

It's your passport to freedom, the legal authority that allows you to settle down behind the wheel of a vehicle and go where you choose, when you choose, and to a degree, as fast as you choose.

But wait -- stop and think for a moment. Reflect and realize just what it is you will be doing.

Once you slide behind the wheel of that vehicle, you will be assuming the most awesome responsibility that you have ever undertaken.

Think about it. Once you set your vehicle in motion and drive down the road, a life is in your hands -- your life and also, to a great degree, the lives of all the other drivers with whom you will share the road.

And in time, you will drive with others in your car: your parents, a best friend, a girlfriend, family members and perhaps, in later years, your wife and children.

Each of them, in essence, will say: "Until we reach our destination, I am surrendering the control of my safety to you. My life is in your hands."

So think about it. Think about it every time you get into your car. Think about what just a momentary lapse of attention or recklessness can produce. It could alter, or end, the lives of any number of innocent people. A death or serious injury that you caused could alter your life for years to come.

So, Steve, enjoy your newfound freedom to the fullest. Revel in the pleasure of driving down the road and being able to go wherever you wish merely by steering your car and applying the gas.

Just always keep in mind the awesome responsibility that each of us assumes when we perform this act.

A life is in your hands, Steve. May yours be a long and happy one.


Joseph R. Bruckner lives in Safety Harbor.

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