Clara Ford was at home one day in 1919, I assume doing whatever it is that Clara Ford typically did at home, when she was informed by police that her husband Henry had gotten into trouble with his car. Evidently, he’d been driving “like a bat out of hell,” as one does, I suppose, when one essentially invents the modern auto industry and is probably showing off for one’s grandson who is also in the car.
And worse, he’d been doing so without a driver’s license.
That in itself is not as terribly shocking as it first sounds because Michigan only started issuing licenses that year. And after his run-in with the police Henry Ford, at the age of 56, went ahead and got one.
At the age of 56 I think it’s fair to expect that a person is wise enough and cautious enough to be trusted with such power. In fact, that probably happens well before the age of 56. I for one am pretty responsible behind the wheel at a mere 43 years of age. I can’t say I’ve never been pulled over, but it’s been a rare occurrence in my life as a driver. And though I’ve had my license since the tender age of 16, I don’t believe I’ve ever driven like a bat out of hell.
Still, in the last few weeks, 16 has been striking me as incredibly young for the responsibility of driving. Because my oldest son recently hit that milestone.
A lot of young’uns aren’t pushing so hard these days to get their driver’s license the moment they can. In 2018 there were approximately 227 million licensed drivers on the road in the United States, but only about 25% of sixteen-year-olds were among them. That was down from nearly half in the mid-1980s. I have no idea why so many of the kids aren’t as anxious to get behind the wheel these days, but that was not the case for my son.
He wanted to drive. Actually, I think he’s been wanting to drive since he was four years old, strapped into a car seat in the back, and asking me remarkably intelligent questions about the rules of the road. True story.
It wasn’t exactly a shock that when he turned fifteen and was old enough to take the written driving test and receive a learner’s permit in our state, he was pretty excited to do it. And he’d been studying since the age of four, so it also wasn’t shocking that he pretty easily passed.
In that year of learning, first in an empty parking lot, then back roads, busier streets with traffic circles and stoplights, lonely highways, and eventually busy interstates where he merged like a pro and stayed nicely centered in his lane, he became a fairly competent driver.
Then he turned sixteen and he wanted to take his driving test so he could get his license. He passed with no trouble. And then on the very day I celebrated the sixteenth anniversary of the first time I ever held my squirming, squishy-faced baby boy, I watched that same kid back out of the driveway and disappear down the street in a car that he was driving all by himself to his martial arts class.
It was the most anxious moment of my life.
My husband, also anxious, quickly decided he needed to run an errand and followed him. I was grateful, because until that moment, I was pretty sure I might also have an errand to run, and I was relieved when I received a text a little bit later letting me know the car was safely parked at the school.
My son really is a good driver and I become more comfortable each time he returns home safely. I can’t guarantee that he doesn’t drive like a bat out of hell, but I know he never did in his year of permit driving and so far, the police haven’t indicated that that has changed.
At least he had to pass a test. Henry Ford didn’t. Michigan only began driver testing in 1931. That is better than the Great State of Missouri, which was actually one of the first to issue licenses for drivers, in 1903. It was another 49 years before the state began testing.
But despite what I sometimes suggest when I am not-so-silently judging the other drivers on the road from the privacy of my own car, they seem to do a pretty good job of it now.
So maybe, depending on the kid, 16 isn’t such a bad age to issue a driver’s license? I don’t know. But I suppose I’d probably worry about him at any age. Maybe even if he were 56.
14 thoughts on “Like a Bat Out of Hell”
I remember those days with Jane and Teresa. Great story- I remember when E was so small, it’s hard to believe he’s’ driving.
Yep. And not small anymore, either. He’s taller than his dad!
16 is quite young, Angela. My oldest son is due to get his driver’s license this year and is having some lessons. Very stressful so I can relate. I don’t go with him, his dad does.
I did most of the driving with him because his dad is a nervous passenger no matter who is behind the wheel. It is young. But I’ve been able to see his skills improve and more importantly I’ve seen his awareness of what’s going on around him improve. He thinks like a driver, which at the beginning he definitely did not. It doesn’t make it easy. I’m sure he makes mistakes, but so far he takes the responsibility seriously and I do trust him to make smart choices. Good luck! This parenthood thing is hard.
Well, congratulations to your son and yes, even 40 years from now, you will still be worrying over him.
This parenting thing changes a little through the years I suppose, but it never does end, does it?
It does change but it nevere ends. Wait until you get to the grandchildren part. It’s even better.
Well done to your son! I never had to undergo a test for a driver’s licence (in 1965!). I avoided a suddenly appearing dog as I came out of the parking lot and the examiner said “You’re fine, just park the car!”
That’s a great story!
I love that your husband stalked him! Which makes me wonder how many times my parents followed me…uh-oh. : 0
Oh, no. I hadn’t thought of that.
Gives me some perspective for what my folks must have felt like when I started driving! 🙂 Congrats to your son and I’m glad to hear he’s driving safe
I’m the youngest of four. I’m hoping maybe it was easier by the time I got to that age. But probably not. Maybe I’ll have some perspective when my second gets there.