It used to be that at age sixteen, you could get your driver’s license and hit the road, but when I was a teenager, Iowa passed a graduated licensure law. What it amounted to was that at sixteen, assuming you had passed driver’s ed when you were fourteen and then passed your driving test down at the DMV, you would be granted a restricted license. You were not allowed to drive between the hours of midnight and six a.m. You would receive your full (unrestricted) license at seventeen, assuming that you hadn’t been involved in any accidents or received any speeding tickets or anything during the preceding year.
What does all this have to do with a post about the age of eighteen? Well, when I was twelve, my dad stopped driving and sold our car. He’d been suffering from seizures (which had been misdiagnosed for years as TIAs and weren’t correctly diagnosed for many more years) that would cause him to lose his vision sometimes, so he voluntarily gave up driving.
He continued to drive a riding lawnmower around town. We had a little red wagon that we hitched up to the back of it for transporting passengers. As kids, my sister and I had always loved tractor and wagon rides. As teenagers? Not so much. So I walked or rode my bike most places and, when I couldn’t do that, I bummed a ride with a friend. I had wonderful friends in high school and I’m proud to say that I’m still in touch with my close friends from that time.
Of course, his giving up driving meant that I didn’t drive. I could have gotten a job and saved enough money to buy a car, take driver’s ed, and get my license, but frankly, I was a lazy teenager and had no interest in working and my dad didn’t like the idea of keeping our car for two years till I was old enough to learn how to drive it. Also, this is what my dad had to say on the topic of teaching me how to drive: “Even if I still had a license, I wouldn’t teach you how to drive.” *sigh*
But those wonderful friends I mentioned earlier? They helped me. When I turned eighteen, I hitched a ride to the county seat with my birth certificate and my dad for proof of ID and got my learner’s permit. Then my friends gave me driving lessons. One of them gave me a single lesson, screamed the entire time that we were going to die, and never rode with me again. I don’t think I went faster than 20 mph the whole time and I think I was practically driving in the gutter, but whatever.
Friend number two was much calmer. She gave me several driving lessons that were very productive and I learned quite a bit. My boyfriend at the time was the third to teach me and after a couple of months, he took me back to the DMV to try to get my driver’s license. Since I hadn’t taken driver’s ed, I was required to take a driving test in addition to the written test before I could get my license. I studied the manual and passed the tests and went home with a shiny new driver’s license, complete with horrible picture.
Actually, I think I still have my first driver’s license thanks to an unfortunate event that happened a year or so later, and that first picture wasn’t so bad. The rest of them, though? Garbage.
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