WATERBORO — On my daily errands, I often drive by my child’s high school. Often as I am cruising by, going about my business, I am thinking about how the day is going. Is she learning, laughing, getting in trouble? Such is the life of a teen.

What I didn’t expect to see on one particular day as I was driving by the school was a horrifically crumpled car parked in the front of the high school. The cars I normally see in my travels are shiny new ones parked in dealers’ lots with colorful waving banners and five-digit numbers stuck across the windshield.

I somehow couldn’t comprehend what I had just seen as I drove by, with my pleasant thoughts suddenly interrupted with visions of car accidents, ghost sounds of screeching tires and anything else that one may encounter at the scene of a car wreck.

When my child came home, filled with fear, she told me that the person in the car had been texting and driving and the car was placed in the front of the high school as a reminder of what could result from this kind of behavior behind the wheel of a car.

I was also informed of how my child had been told about this accident and how the whole school was lectured about it. The nights that followed for my teen were filled with nightmares, anxiety and terrible fear as she couldn’t get that vision out of her mind. The school might as well have laid out a body there, too. When in the car with me, she was often very fearful and couldn’t relax and have a pleasant drive as usual.

I must admit that I have been guilty of texting and driving. Fortunately, I have been safe without any car accidents, but that still does not justify the fact that I know that I was doing something that I shouldn’t. These days, I am not texting while driving but I am well aware of the fact that it is definitely a driving distraction.

Seeing a terrible crunched-up car in front of the school was not my reason for not texting and driving. My reason was experience; I just can’t see the road, and a near miss one day brought that home. Fear did not change my behavior.

I believe that we have a responsibility to our children to give them love, gentle guidance and most of all, understanding. As we all know, life is built on hands-on experience. No amount of lecturing, badgering or pointing to the “see what can happen to you” philosophy will work. I don’t believe in “scared-straight” and I absolutely don’t think that giving a child horrific nightmares and anxiety-filled days is going to prove a point. Teens will ultimately make their own decisions in life and the law of natural consequences is usually the only teacher that there is.

When a teen gets behind the wheel of a car, whether it is with a bottle of beer, bag of marijuana or a cellphone that they are using to have conversations with their friends, ultimately, the decision is theirs.

We can love them and guide them. We have the choice whether or not to give them access to a car or to a cellphone. Either way, they will find a way to do it if they really want to.

Hopefully, our teens, if raised in love and respect, will make the right decisions, or not. Believe me, there is not a day that goes by that I am not contemplating what they are telling me they are doing and what they are actually doing.

It is very unfortunate when these things happen and it is very sad. In my opinion, I think that seeing the horrible aftermath of one poor child’s error is not the answer.

Is there an answer at all? Probably not, but we can only hope that not filling them with unnecessary fear could be a possible one.

 

– Special to the Press Herald