The Joys and Perils of Driving With a 65-Year-Old Teenager At The Wheel

Don't criticize Joe’s driving: given his blameless record, there’s nothing objectively wrong with it. You don’t want to make the discussion about something he does that you think is “wrong.”  That will only get his back up, cause him to become defensive and dig in his heels -- in this case on the gas pedal.

The issue, in fact, isn’t his driving, it’s your reaction to it.  So take responsibility for your own anxiety and say:

“I know you’re an excellent driver but I don’t like it when you go over 80 mph.  It makes me nervous.  I know you handle the car very skillfully, but since we’ll be in it together for 20 hours, would you agree to drive under 75 for my peace of mind?”

In that way, you convey to Joe that you know you’re the nervous one and you’re acknowledging that you’re asking him to do something for you that’s both difficult  and unnatural for him.  The key phrases I suggest using are “I don’t like it when” and “It [not you, but “it”] makes me nervous.”

Now the subject isn’t something that Joe does but a response of yours that you recognize as a failing (feeling anxiety in a car driven legally at 80 mph by a safe driver).

He may say that he will get you to Chicago sooner, in which case you could offer to leave earlier so that he can drive more slowly and still arrive at the same time.

The key is to try to remain reasonable and fair-minded and not get into an argument about how dangerous you think Joe’s driving is.  If he exceeds the limit anyway, you can mention, gently (not in a shrill, exasperated tone) that he’s going faster than you two agreed he would.

Then there’s a third option: the Greyhound bus fare from Clarksdale, Mississippi (the nearest Greyhound station) to Chicago is $236.34 round trip, per senior. If you have an extra $472.68, it might make sense to take the bus. Buses today are equipped with free wi-fi, electrical plugs for cell phones and DVD-players, and are far more comfortable than the long-distance buses that plied the nation's roads in decades past.

Assuming you do choose to drive together, the slower the music that you play in the car, the more slowly Joe may drive. You could also remind him that your parents won’t be around forever, and that you’d like to look back on these trips with warmth and affection rather than with fear and trembling.  Whatever you do, may this be your happy destiny:

Belladonna Rogers

Do you have questions?  Belladonna Rogers has answers.  Send your questions or comments about politics, personal or cultural matters, or anything else that’s on your mind, and Belladonna will answer as many as possible.  The names, geographic locations and email addresses of all advice-seekers will be kept confidential. Names and places and will be changed to protect the identity of the questioner.  Send your questions or comments to: [email protected]