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This is as close as Lorraine Sommerfeld wants her sons and their friends to get to the driver's seat of a Porsche Panamera. (Lorraine Sommerfeld for The Globe and Mail)
This is as close as Lorraine Sommerfeld wants her sons and their friends to get to the driver's seat of a Porsche Panamera. (Lorraine Sommerfeld for The Globe and Mail)

Drive, She Said

A bad mix: power, performance and teen drivers Add to ...

It’s a sparsely populated highway I travel frequently; two lanes cutting through farms that are still farms, intersections where a flashing amber is still enough. It’s a road to get to somewhere else rather than holding destinations of its own, regardless of season.

I’m not sure if the driver ahead of me was bored, intoxicated, distracted or simply addled. I don’t trust erratic, and the behaviour was worsening. By the time he’d hit the gravel shoulder for the second time, I flipped in a call to the police. When one of the few safe passing sections of the highway presented itself, I tapped the accelerator and left him behind.

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It’s easy to do that in a Porsche Panamera Turbo S. Tap the accelerator and leave someone behind. I can’t do it nearly as easily in my own car. No, my car, much as I love it, is a four-cylinder Santa Fe, and when you tap the accelerator at highway speeds, it takes a whisker longer to respond than that Porsche. When you find yourself in a variety of different vehicles, you have to adjust your driving habits accordingly. Sometimes you leave dangerous situations behind you; other times you let them have a long lead.

I’m not going to lie. That power is lovely. I covet that power even as I can’t afford it. But there are two reasons I wouldn’t buy a car that powerful right now, even if I could: Christopher, 20, and Ayrton, 17. My sons.

I hate sharing my car. That statement is selfish and small and honest. I hate resetting mirrors all the time; I hate adjusting the seat; I hate a gas tank that is one moment full, then magically breathing fumes. I hate having to plan my week around who’s doing what when. And I really hate cup holders full of someone else’s cups.

I am finally learning what my parents went through, and once again, years after the fact, saying a thank you under my breath.

I remember my parents getting a new car when I was 12. It was another station wagon, and it was orange, and it was ugly, and it was what I would be driving. While there was never a chance in hell that my father would have purchased any kind of high-performance anything, I realize now that station wagon was a perfect first car for a new driver.

It’s irresponsible to put a high-performance vehicle into the hands of an inexperienced driver. There may be a variety of reasons they’re unprepared, but age is always a constant one. You may have worked your way up to that engineering marvel sitting in your driveway, but your years of experience don’t transfer with the keys.

I will guarantee my older son doesn’t drive the same way when I’m in the car as he does on his own. He’s a good kid, a responsible driver, but he’s going to live forever. Just ask him; better yet, rumble back through your memory to that age and tell me you were any different. It’s not bad teenagers who end up dead or hurt, it’s normal ones. These kids are your kids, they’re my kids, and I can only rely on the law to do so much. If I strap a child to a rocket, then wonder what went wrong, that’s my fault.

There are pockets of arguments suggesting new drivers should learn on standard transmissions. Logistically, it’s pretty much impossible, but I think it’s a great concept. Driving is dangerous, and driving over your head is too easy. Anything that requires better engagement between car and driver and reinforces it over and over is a good thing.

As I cruised on that snow-swept highway behind the four-door Aggravation ahead of me, I knew many of my options turned on the 550 horses pulling that Porsche. There were definitely sections of that road –not legal passing sections – where I could have easily overtaken the nuisance ahead of me. But legalities aside, I knew I also had to take into consideration the unpredictable car ahead, the blowing snow, ice patches, a dipping sun and unmarked country laneways. Probably like you, with more than three decades of driving behind me, I do much of this processing automatically.

But my sons? Not yet. I’ll shut up and share and hope delayed gratification applies to cars. Until then, the 175 horses hauling our family chariot are just fine.

lorraineonline.ca

 
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