Death and driving

Death and driving

Abby Hogan

I sat with my hands tightly gripping the wheel knowing the car’s capabilities. At any second if I did something wrong, I could end up hurting people. A simple turn signal could mean life or death. I don’t want to be in control of something that could so easily take someone’s life. I’m not immortal. 

   Most teenagers are counting down the days until they turn sixteen and can get their driver’s license. Not me. My quadruplet sister Keyan died when we were twelve due to terminal illness, and her death is a big part of why I don’t enjoy driving.

   A lot of people my age haven’t experienced someone close to them dying. So, when it comes time to learn how to drive they have the idea that they’re invincible.

   Until you experience someone close to you dying, you have this bubble around you protecting you from realizing you could die at any moment. This privilege of not having to think about death is something people don’t realize they have but is very helpful. 

   If I had never experienced my sister dying, I would probably see driving the same as most teenagers, a fun activity that provides the freedom to go wherever you want.

   After my sister died, this bubble popped. I started to realize that life is very precious and can so easily be taken away from you. 

   One of the first questions people ask me is how driving is going. Most people assume that I have my driver’s license or that I am close to getting it. This feels irritating to me because there is a set expectation that I want to drive. I really only have four and a half out of the 50 required driving hours.

   I remember being in a grief group and talking to other people about how I don’t like driving. A lot of them actually felt the same way I did. They talked about how driving isn’t seen as fun for them but instead just something they had to do. 

   This helped me realize that grief was one of the major reasons why I don’t like driving. When I tell people I’m scared to drive the most common response is to get over it. Most people don’t understand why I could be nervous to drive. I do want to get more driving hours. 

   Unfortunately, I think this will take a while for me to do. Even recently, I’ve realized that I really do want to be able to drive; I just don’t like it. 

   Every time I think I’m ready to start getting my driving hours again I see the wreckage from a car crash or someone I know gets into one. This heightens my fears and starts me in a cycle again. 

   Once I was in the car and we got rear-ended. This small hit to the car hurt and my body went stiff. This made me wonder; if a small hit to the car hurt that bad then what would it feel like to be in a serious car accident?

   My brain tells me “why do I need to drive?” “It’s dangerous.” “I don’t even like driving.” I have to learn to push past these feelings and cope with them.

   Sometimes I start to feel jealous of my friends who have no fear and can already drive everywhere. They get to enjoy driving but I don’t.

   I often tell them that I wish I liked driving but I hate it. They’ve been really understanding when they say I need rides but it is still really difficult to know that they’ll never understand. 

   One day, my mom took my sisters and me over to a neighborhood just to get some driving in. I had already gone through driver’s training segment one but for some reason I was petrified. 

   I sat in the back seat suddenly unable to focus on anything around me. My breath became shallow and I started to cry from fear. I was having an anxiety attack. 

   This was when I started to realize that driving was more than just a fear for me. 

   I started talking to my parents about this and they explained to me that I just will have to take it slow and realize that driving isn’t as scary as I think it is. 

   I try to explain my fears but people normally say, “you just have to do it.” I know people mean well but when they reply in that way it feels like my fears are being dismissed. 

   While I know I will eventually get over it, I wish people would instead respond with support or just listen. 

   I still want to get my license; it will just take me longer than the average person. Once I finally decide to drive again I think I will feel better. It’s just figuring out when I’m ready to hit the road again. 

   Driving shouldn’t just be seen as an easy thing to accomplish. Teen drivers are twice as likely as adult drivers to be in a fatal crash. People should know what the effects of driving could be and should understand why someone might not be ready to drive when they are sixteen.