Are You Old Enough to Drive?
What a Father Might Say to His Son
“YOU have been waiting for a long time to drive, haven’t you, son? But if you value anything enough, then it is worth waiting for, isn’t it? You can get a lot of practical use and pleasure from owning and driving a motor car. You’re also taking on quite a responsibility!”
About Your Car
“Remember a few years ago how you wanted a gun because all the other boys of your age had one? We talked about the dangers involved with firearms and you were so concerned then that you decided it would be better not to own one. Now, I don’t want to talk you out of owning or driving a motor car, but I want you to do it safely, for yourself and for others.
“The gun was dangerous because of the energy released when the trigger was pulled. The only way to control the energy released in a gun is to be careful where you point the barrel. A gun’s source of energy is from an explosion in a confined space. The expanding gases in the firing chamber must find an escape and this they do by taking the line of least resistance—down the gun barrel.
“In the engine of your car a similar explosion takes place when an electrically induced spark ignites the vaporized fuel within the confined space at the top of the cylinder when the piston is at the top of its stroke. The expanding gases take the line of least resistance and force the movable piston downward, converting the downward thrust to a circular motion in the crankshaft, and that eventually is transferred to the wheels of the car.
“So, instead of sending a lead bullet through the air, a series of explosions sends you and your vehicle speeding along the road. Not quite as fast but, hopefully, under control.
“We’ve discussed before the mechanical controls in the car itself, the steering for directing the ‘missile,’ the clutch for engaging and disengaging the power, the throttle for increasing or decreasing the power and, of course, the brakes for bringing the vehicle to a stop. Your safe enjoyment of the car depends to a large degree on the mechanical efficiency and condition of these controls. Always remember, your speeding vehicle can be more dangerous than a bullet.”
“There are other factors involved in safe and enjoyable driving: road conditions, the driver’s experience, his skill and health, his attitude, emotional state and attentiveness. Not only must the car be controlled, but the driver must be also!
“Remember the film that we saw the other night? It illustrated that. Even the rally and competition drivers showed a marked decrease in driving ability when under the influence of small amounts of alcohol. The skilled competition and rally drivers were able to perform more routine actions automatically than the less experienced everyday driver, but still could not cope with emergency situations. Didn’t we laugh when we saw the test drivers in the film run through the imaginary end of their garage and sideswipe the imaginary wall as they backed out, or overrun the markers in the stopping test? But would we have laughed if the markers were real live pedestrians crossing a street?
“Why does alcohol have such an effect? Because it slows down our reaction time. It relaxes us, and while a driver should not be tense, he does need to be wide awake and alert. Your car is moving speedily. While you are thinking about what to do, it is still moving. While you are reacting, it is still moving. While the vehicle is responding, it is still moving.
“Let us look at a possible incident. You’re driving along a reasonably quiet suburban street when suddenly a ball bounces onto the road a short distance in front of your car. Then a small boy dashes after it! Some very complicated computer work has to go on within the mind and body of the driver. The information is recorded by the eyes and transmitted to the brain where it is related to the facts you have already stored there. The things that you already know about little boys, road conditions, the condition of your car, the car’s abilities, your own abilities, possible actions to be taken and their possible consequences—all of these have to be considered before a decision is made.
“If the car is traveling at 45 kilometers per hour (about 28 miles per hour), in just one second it will have covered 13 meters (about 43 feet). In just one second! If the driver is tired or his reactions are affected for any reason at all, reaction time can be up to three times as long! Of course, different people react in different ways and different cars respond differently, but at high speeds, say 90 kilometers per hour (56 miles per hour), half a second can be the difference between life and death.
“So far we have only mentioned reaction time, but it takes a lot longer after you have reacted to a situation to bring the car to a stop. At a speed of around 110 kilometers per hour (about 70 miles per hour), the limit often set on expressways here in Australia, it can take up to 96 meters (315 feet) to bring the car to a standstill. That’s a long way!
“Remember, these distances will increase if you are tired, angry, ill, worried, or if you have been drinking or taking drugs, or are in deep conversation with the person traveling with you, or if for any reason your judgment, reflex response and fine movement are reduced.
“Son, in the driver’s seat you don’t have a new toy; you have a potentially dangerous weapon in your hands! It can be used wisely and enjoyed, but it depends on you, the driver, and your attitude.”
The Follies of Youth
“‘Foolishness is tied up with the heart of a boy.’ You remember that, don’t you, found in the Bible at Proverbs 22:15? Some of us ‘oldies’ like to be ‘boys’ too, when we get in a motor car. Boys like to see what a car can do; they like to try out their own capabilities and have a tendency to overlook the consequences of their actions. Seeking excitement and thrills can impair one’s judgment about the dangers involved, and a lack of experience can cause a person to overlook the need for greater caution.
“Let’s look at some Bible principles that will help you to avoid these pitfalls of youth:
1. Love of neighbor. (Matt. 22:39; 1 Cor. 16:14) The Golden Rule. (Matt. 7:12) Why is what we are doing more important than what others do when driving our cars? How does the way we drive affect the lives and happiness, the well-being and health of others?
2. The sanctity of life. (Lev. 17:11; Num. 35:33; Acts 15:29; Ps. 55:23) Do we drive for thrills? Do we like the sound of tires squealing on the road? Is our driving putting in danger the lives of others? True Christians view life as valuable, as belonging to Jehovah.
3. ‘Pay back, therefore, Caesar’s things to Caesar.’ (Matt. 22:21; Rom. 13:1-4) It is not just a question of knowing Caesar’s laws. The Bible indicates that our attitude should be one of respect to the governments of this world. Again, it’s a question of attitude. Do we feel that we can make a flash decision while traveling at high speed over an unfamiliar road, assuming that the men who have studied the road surface and conditions before setting the speed limit were wrong and that we are right?
“According to Caesar’s laws, you’re old enough to drive. But remember that driving is a weighty responsibility. Thousands of lives are lost each year through car accidents. About a quarter of a million die in road accidents world wide each year; 50,000 in the United States, 16,000 in France and the Federal Republic of Germany, 3,689 here in Australia in 1975.
“We thought that guns were dangerous, didn’t we? Comparatively few lose their lives from accidents with firearms each year; 1,300 each year in the United States, and only 27 in Australia in 1975.
“Are you ready for this responsibility? If you can have both yourself and your vehicle under control at all times, you can have pleasure and practical use from your car. Can you? If so, you are old enough to drive!”