July 18, 2007 Edition

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Driving lesson

Gretchen Hunt

I was on my way home from work the other day with my son in the back seat. We drive Highway 412 toward Paragould, which is flat and straight and a tempting highway to speed on.

I, like many, have found myself traveling faster than the speed limit without even realizing it. This day, I was being quite conscientious of my speed because it seemed like there was more traffic than usual on the road and many of them were driving, shall I say, erratically.

Just before we got to Light, a car zoomed past us traveling quite a bit over the speed limit. As I drove into Light, I saw a state trooper coming toward me whip into the parking lot at Vance Cupp and Sons Grain and pull back onto the highway heading in the opposite direction.

The blue lights caught Conley's attention in the back seat and he asked me what the policeman was doing. I told him he was probably going to go and catch that car that had just passed us and give them a ticket.

To this, he offered the ever-popular four-year-old question, "Why?"

I told him they were driving too fast and that is why they were getting a ticket.

Now, it didn't occur to me that to my four-year-old son tickets are a good thing. He acquaints tickets with riding rides, winning a prize or going somewhere. It didn't take me long to realize he did not understand that in this case getting a ticket was not a happy occasion.

"You better hurry up, Mom," he told me. "Why?" I asked him. "You have to go fast so we can get some tickets, too," he said grinning.

I explained to him that when you get a ticket from a police officer it is because you were doing something bad and you have to pay money as punishment for getting in trouble. "Oh," he said. "We don't want one of those tickets."

A few minutes later, after he had thought on all this for a while, he asked me why it was bad to go fast, after all, he thought going fast was pretty fun. I told him that there are rules about how fast you can go and be safe and that if you go too fast it can be dangerous and you can have an accident or run off the road and hit a tree.

The next day he was eager to tell his grandma about our experience with the police officer. He told her about how the policeman chased down the car and was going to give them a ticket for going too fast. "It's not good to go to fast, Grandma," he said.

"If you go to fast, you get a ticket, and then you have to spend all that money."

I was surprised at how much he remembered and seemed to understand about what we had talked about the day before. I was really pleased, though, when he went on saying, "And even worse, Grandma, if you go too fast you can crash and that would not be good."

So often we get caught up wanting to make the police be the bad guys, but my four-year-old son really got it. It's not about driving slow so you don't get a ticket. It's about driving safe so you don't get in an accident.

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