By Andrew Pulido, 16, Chavez Learning Academies (San Fernando)
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Andrew says his mom isn't as scared about driving with him as she was before.

When I started high school, I noticed almost all the 11th and 12th graders had cars and could drive to football games and practices and wherever they wanted. I hated having to depend on my mom or dad for a ride. My parents usually had to work or drop off my younger brothers at their practices. I would have to rush to be ready when they said “We’re leaving in 10 minutes” and then I would end up forgetting something important like my wallet or keys. I needed to drive as soon as possible. 

When I turned 16 I took my permit test and got only three wrong, which is passing, and got my learner’s permit. But when we got home my parents didn’t tell me when I would start practicing driving. After two weeks, it was obvious they were avoiding the subject. Learning to drive with my parents was going to be a lot harder than I thought.

One day, I asked my dad where he was going and he said he was going to the market. I asked him if I could drive. He hesitated but then said “Yeah, OK.” I was a little nervous but mostly excited to get started. My dad was pretty calm. Every once in a while he would tell me to slow down or not to press the brakes so hard. I felt great knowing I wasn’t that bad my first time driving.

On the other hand my first time driving with my mom was a disaster. We practiced going around the block for an hour and a half. When I went slower than 35 miles per hour to be cautious, she would tell me I needed to drive exactly 35 miles an hour unless we were in a school zone. As we approached each stop sign I would hear, “Andrew, slow down, slow down, slow down, Andrew.” I knew I was going to stop before the white line so my first thought would be, “Mom, shut up, mom, shut up.” Her nagging made me worried that I would make a mistake. When we returned home I was mad at my mom for treating me like I was 6, not 16. I thought, “This is supposed to be fun, not something I should be getting mad over.”

After that, I usually didn’t ask my mom to practice driving with me but my dad was available only three days a week, so I didn’t get as much practice as I would have liked. The trade-off wasn’t that bad because my confidence behind the wheel didn’t suffer any serious blows from my mom.

Illustration by Amy Fan, 18, Temple City HS

After about a month, I got the hang of parking, switching lanes and driving in traffic without feeling nervous. After I was done driving with my dad, he’d say, “You’re getting better.” My mom was still convinced I needed a lot of practice but I started finding her facial expressions hilarious. Whenever she would get into the car with me her eyes would widen and her jaw would tense even though I hadn’t started the car yet! As soon as I started the car she would hold on to the door as if she were ready to jump out. I tried to drive the speed limit but the whole time she kept screaming, “Andrew, slow down, SLOW DOWN!” Or when I was making a left turn on a busy street, she’d say, “I swear if you do that one more time, I’m dropping you off and driving home without you!” I learned that when a parent is overreacting, just focus on what you’re doing.

My dad gave me useful advice

I liked driving with my dad because he was helpful. When some idiot was tailgating me or a driver was zigzagging through the cars around us, my dad would tell me, “Relax, move away from them and let them pass by you before returning to your lane.” He always said the same thing: “Be a defensive driver, keep your distance and be on the lookout for other drivers.” My dad’s tips helped me build good habits.

My favorite memory of learning to drive was going on the freeway for the first time with my mom. After I had been driving about four months I was more confident and I asked her if we could try driving on the freeway. She was reluctant at first but I convinced her to let me. As I began driving toward the 118 freeway she said, “Andrew please be VERY careful. I don’t think this is a good idea.” As I turned onto the on-ramp I could immediately tell this was going to be different. You have to accelerate fast to match everyone else’s speed. My mom was yelling at me to speed up (something I’d never heard her say before) and so I did. As I merged into the lane next to me cars honked at me as they flew by! Most of the cars were going much faster than I was, and I was going around 60 miles per hour. My mom was quiet, which was a change, but when I looked at her I saw her eyes were closed. After about 10 minutes my mom broke the silence and said, “You’re doing pretty good.” I was shocked because my mom had never given me a compliment about my driving before. I decided to get off at the next exit. I figured I owed her that much for not putting the usual pressure on me. 

I’ve been driving for six months now. I’m going to be taking my driving test soon and I think I’ll pass. I guess the nagging and lectures did pay off.