Globe Syndicate

for release June 28, 2002

Another Way

by Melodie Davis

Do you remember your first set of tires?

No, I don't mean wheels, as in "first car." I mean the first set of tires you ever had to buy and how it hurt to pay real money for something you probably didn't really want.

At least that is the way I felt as a female when I had my first real car, a family hand-me-down that Dad titled over to me. I now know that the significance of the title was that any and all upkeep, insurance, and its future on the road were completely up to me, along with paying for it all.

So when Pop said, you really ought to be buying a new set of tires, I kind of swallowed and said, "Okay. How much do you think they will be?"

He thought I should be able to get four tires for around $100 (this was 1974 of course). I had just gotten my first real pay check that summer, and it was around $100. My visions of going on a spending spree for clothes quickly vanished. There was no way I wanted to spend my money on tires. But I had no choice.

Smart Dad. Recently I was getting tires rotated and balanced on one of our cars when an older man, fatherly type, said while we were waiting, "You know there really is nothing more important you could be doing than taking care of your tires."

He kind of startled me, because getting the tires rotated and balanced was not exactly my idea of a favorite errand. Since we were both waiting for the clerk, this gentleman made me think about something that had never quite sunk in from my husband before. (I'm sure he's told me the same thing.)

The man went on, "You know there is nothing more important, for safe driving than the tires, other than the driver. Tires are more important than brakes. Tires are what meet the road."

He also noted that having correct air pressure was very important, and that too few people paid attention to the build up of air pressure in tires on long trips, and how that could lead to blow outs and cars turning over. (Yeah, yeah, the lectures from husband and dad about checking my air pressure came to mind.)

Why is it sometimes easier to take advice from a stranger than from one's own husband or dad?

Maybe that is why most localities have laws about youth taking some kind of official driver's education before getting a driver's license. (Remember, the "driver" is the other most important part of the driving equation according to common sense and my elderly advice giver.) Our teens may drive with Mom and Dad for a whole year, but we want them to also have the "official" instruction through a school or private company.

Somehow we intuitively know they will be more inclined to listen to the teacher than Mom or Dad. Perhaps we also know that the teacher will probably be more patient-and maybe even less nervous-than Mom or Dad. Too bad that in most places, teens get instruction first from parents and then maybe a year later get instruction from a teacher.

I am also concerned that too often driver's education is too often relegated to athletic coaches who have "left over time." They are asked to teach driver's ed to fill up an otherwise not-full schedule. Now, there are certainly athletic coaches who make wonderful driver's ed teachers. There are those who make a real commitment to the job and give it their best. But stories and observation tell me that too often-and this is nationwide-driver's ed is left to chance. Kids have bad enough percentages when it comes to their share of accidents and fatalities. Even with the best teachers, driver inexperience will still, unfortunately, mean that they have more than their share of accidents. So schools should approach the hiring for driver education as one of the most important jobs in the school. Lives are at stake.

And as parents and responsible vehicle owners: heed the advice of the elderly sage: check that air pressure, rotate those tires before you put that rubber on the road.

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Melodie Davis is the author of seven books and has written her column since 1987. She taught feature writing and has won awards from the National Federation of Press Women, Virginia Press Women and the American Advertising Association. She and her husband have three daughters.

NOTES TO EDITORS: text = 660 words; end material = 105 words

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