Sheer, unadulterated fear. White knuckles. Phantom stomping of non-existent passenger-side brakes. Quaking knees, muttering missives and muted prayers.

My daughter is learning to drive and I find myself quizzically wondering how my parents ever let me drive anything beyond a single gear bicycle.

Readers across Central Texas with teen drivers just piped in with a robust, throaty amen. It might have even registered on the Richter scale. Am I right, or am I right?

Having kids learning to drive can be scary business. Oh, you need to know that those white knuckles, knotted stomach and that mumbling mouth belong to me. I’m the designated driving instructor. My prayer life has never been stronger, nor has my heart ever been weaker.

I guess my fears for my daughter are mostly based on seeing her driving through the hazy lens of my own first driving experiences. Assuming there is a statute of limitations on my daily dose of Dukes of Hazard stunt driver auditioning, I’ll admit that I broke a lot of driving rules and regulations back in the day. Frankly, I probably should have been locked up and my truck impounded for all the ridiculous shenanigans that I pursued. I lived to tell about it, which means that she’ll get an earful.

She likely won’t, but she could easily say, “Dad, you’re so old. Our cars are so much safer. They have tons of safety features…way more than the old jalopies you drove.”

Since she’s too “over it” to read anything I write, it’s safe for me to go public with the reality that if she pressed me hard enough to buy her a new car with tons of safety features, I’d probably fold like a 21st century crumple zone.

Which brings me to the latest and greatest hi-tech features for your car, especially ones that your family will be riding in or that your teen drivers will be aiming down the freeway.

My first vehicle didn’t have a single air bag, let alone virtual wall-to-wall bubble wrap. Today’s vehicles are equipped with a growing assortment of airbag technologies, including added locations and occupant-sensitive technologies. The more, the better and the smarter, the better. has this sobering reminder: “By the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s own estimates, airbags have saved nearly 28,000 lives since 1998, that’s more than 2,300 people a year.” Adrian Lund with The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says that they’ve seen a 45% reduction in fatal accidents in vehicles that have side airbags. Second only to seatbelts, airbags are a vital technology for your family.

A snazzier assortment of car tech is the growing array of driver assist technologies—and, yes, snazzy is a technical automobile term, just ask your local used car salesperson. These life-saving innovations include adaptive cruise control, collision mitigation, night vision assist, blind-spot detection, lane departure warning, rollover prevention and rearview cameras. And as breakout companies like Tesla make a growing name for tech in the auto industry, more and better safety features are just around the corner (see what I did there).

Finally, the most important technology of any modern machine is the one that’s been available since the inception of the wheel: our brains. Cars may be safer than ever, but these cars are also more powerful and faster than ever.

Who would have ever imagined that you could buy a family sedan off the show room floor with 500+ horsepower, able to suck your breath away as it rockets from 0 to 60 in about 3 seconds? And that’s not to mention the brutish g-forces and blinding speed being pumped out by sports cars that give an almost super-car level speed and acceleration experience for pennies on the dollar.

Now more than ever, we need to be safe, engaged drivers. My teenage self is mocking me…but he’s an idiot. Don’t let all the technology turn your thinker into mush. Appreciate and use your technology to your advantage, but don’t let it lull you into thinking that you’re invincible.

Your car is made out of safer, better materials than ever before. Unfortunately, however, you’re still made out of the same bones and tissue that humans have always been made out of. So enjoy the space-age world of smart technology jammed into your car, but more important than ever…just be smart in your car!


Richard Singleton, MACE, MAMFC, LPC, is the executive director at STARRY in Round Rock.

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