DEAR ABBY: My 14-year-old daughter, "Michelle," wants to take driver's education next year when she's in the 10th grade. Most of her friends will be taking the class. I explained to her that I'm so afraid something will happen while she's behind the wheel, I don't want to sign for the class or her permit.
Michelle has assured me that she's responsible and would never drive without my consent. She says I should trust her. She's a great child -- a straight-A student and very trustworthy. I do trust her, but I can't get over my fear of losing her. She says she understands, but I see the hurt in her eyes whenever she tries to talk to me about it.
Yesterday a boy in a nearby city, driving with only his permit, was in an accident that killed seven children -- ages 15 and under. I'm sure the boy's parents trusted their son or they wouldn't have signed for his permit. Now they have to live with this. I don't think I could handle the guilt. I'm afraid if I sign, Michelle may drive the way that boy did and wind up in a fatal accident. Children aren't perfect. Sometimes they do things they shouldn't.
Am I doing the right thing? Please help me, Abby. -- PROTECTIVE MOM, GLEN, MISS.
DEAR PROTECTIVE MOM: Much as you might wish to, you cannot "protect" a child by keeping her ignorant. In her driver's education class she will learn basic rules of the road, including how to safely operate an automobile under strict supervision. After that, some states, including your own, place significant restrictions on teenage drivers. Only at age 18 is a person entitled to apply in Mississippi for a full, unrestricted one-year license.
If you wish to add restrictions of your own, the option is yours, particularly if the car is yours. I suggest making a contract with her that stipulates what grade average she must maintain to keep her driving privileges, limiting the number of passengers she can transport, and also setting distance limits. A version of the following contract has appeared in my column before:
I ( ), agree to the stipulations stated below granting me the privilege of driving. If, at any time, I violate this agreement, my driving privileges will be forfeited.
(1) Should I get a traffic ticket, I agree to pay for the ticket, as well as the difference in the insurance premium for as long as the premium is in effect.
(2) I agree to pay for damages that I incur not covered by insurance.
(3) At no time will I ever drink alcoholic beverages and drive, nor will there ever be any in the car.
(4) I will not drive the car until I and all passengers have buckled up.
(5) I will keep the car I drive clean, inside and out, be aware of its needs for gas, oil, etc., and wax it as needed.
I have read the above agreement and sign it in accordance with the rules.
( ) Child
( ) Parent