If you’re like me, you were probably around 10 years old when you started wondering why you weren’t allowed to drive anywhere you wanted.
And depending on the circumstances you grew up in (farm life, way out in the country), you were probably driving down country roads at the age of 12.
If you grew up in the big city (Sweetwater, Madisonville), you might or might not have had a learner’s permit at 15, but you were probably making unsupervised drives to a close by store sometime after you turned 14.
This was mainly because parents were always so tired back in those days and couldn’t get up the energy to go to the store. What wore them out so bad? Was it work? Money worries? Having to deal with raising us?
Are parents that tired nowadays? Do they collapse in a chair and say, “The keys are in the kitchen. Go to the store and get us some hot dogs. But you go straight there and straight back, you understand?”
We understood, but we still took the long way there and the long way back. That direction took all of two minutes extra, but we didn’t care. We were driving, we were free, and if there was a spot where we could “punch it” and make the tires squeal, well, we were undoubtedly the coolest teenagers in four counties.
Is driving at what, in retrospect, is a stupidly early age still a thing? I know there are instances where you run into someone and at the age of 22 they still can’t drive. It’s not just that they don’t have a license, they really cannot drive. Never learned. Never had a desire to get behind the wheel.
But those are still outliers. The bulk of us still drive, though there aren’t many farms left for kids to really learn to drive before they head into traffic, though many still live out in the middle of nowhere.
When I was young and just starting out behind the wheel, I thought I would never get to drive enough. Driving meant being grown up and having freedom. You could go anywhere, do anything and nobody would ever tell you what to do again.
Now, I’ve driven more than I ever thought I would, especially recently. If I go a full day without driving, a very rare occurrence, it’s like a mini vacation. I can still enjoy a good drive, speeding down the road, listening to music, especially on a warm summer evening when it feels like the day will last forever.
But it doesn’t hold the same sway it once did. The road doesn’t really mean freedom because you’ve got to end up somewhere. Getting lost is no longer an option, mainly thanks to GPS, but also because every single road now connects to another one. You can no longer be driving on a road and suddenly have it end in a field.
Why do I bring this up? I recently read where Tennessee is the 27th worst state to drive in. Or the 23rd best if you want a more positive spin. It’s a middle of the road ranking, which sounds about right for us.
Something called QuoteWizard looked at four factors when deciding which states were good behind the wheel and which ones obviously never got to drive on a farm:
- Speeding tickets
Which state had the worst drivers? That would be Wyoming. I know, doesn’t Wyoming have a population of about 20 people? Give or take, but they keep getting drunk and hitting each other, so they’re the worst.
Which state is best? West Virginia. I have no idea why.
In the four categories, Tennessee was not in the top five on either the good or bad side. Middle of the road in everything except politics. Good ol’ Tennessee.
With everything being available online and more and more people working from home, I guess there could be a day when the only thing on the road will be trucks and public transportation.
I wonder who’ll be the last person to blast down the road on a warm evening? And what song will they be playing? It’ll probably be a teenager a tired parent sent to the store.