One responsibility of any parent is to keep their children safe. Who was really to blame in this incident – me for doing something I knew was wrong, or my father for not ensuring that the car was unable to be driven by his far too clever for her own good daughter?
I crashed my first car when I was eight. That’s right, eight years old. It wasn’t my car, of course, but my parents and it was my first time behind the wheel. I still remember the occasion vividly.
My family had gone to visit another and Dad had parked the car in front of their closed garage door. He also left the keys in the car, presumably thinking no one was likely to try and drive off with the car, as their house was on a back section down a long drive.
My younger sister and I soon became bored with the adult conversation and went out to play with the daughter of the family we were visiting. After a few games of hide and seek, I decided it was time to assert my superiority. I was, after all, the oldest of the three of us.
“Come on,” I called, “lets go and play in Dad’s car.” No second invitation was needed. We raced across to the big old car and clambered in, me in the drivers seat of course. That was when common sense deserted me and out right boasting took over.
“I can drive,” I declared to the two younger ones, “I can drive Dad’s car.” “You can’t,” they both said, “how do you know what to do?”
“I’ve watched Dad plenty of times,” I said. And that at least was true. I knew I had to turn on the key, but that was about it. I didn’t really mean to drive anywhere of course, I was just trying to show off. “Go on then,” they urged, “show us.”
Well, no harm could come of just starting the motor, surely. I turned on the keys and the car burst into life, more quickly than I anticipated. Almost at the same time there was a lurch forward and the car moved forward, right into that closed garage door. The impact was very loud, but at least the door was sturdy enough to stop the car from going further. I’m not sure who got the biggest fright, the two younger ones or myself.
The bang of the two surfaces meeting, car and garage door, was also enough to bring the adults running. The rest of the afternoon is a bit of a blur. I vaguely remember getting quite a telling off and felt myself lucky to escape from being administered a hiding from Dad. But there could have been a reason for that.
You see, later in life I learned I wasn’t the only one in trouble over that car accident. My Dad also got a bit of a blasting from Mum and the other adults. Firstly, he was told he should never have left the keys in the car and then, the truth emerged. It seems he’d left the car in first gear, meaning that it automatically moved forward once the motor started.
It was many years before I sat in the drivers seat with the intention of driving again. In fact, only when I was 22 years old and newly married, did my husband manage to persuade me to learn to drive. That first experience lived long in my mind and I wasn’t sure that I could trust cars. I certainly didn’t believe in my ability to drive.
I did learn one lesson from the experience though. As adults we should never leave our keys in the car, where young enquiring fingers may find them. And, no matter where the car is parked, if there are children around, the car doors should always be locked.
Other memories of childhood from Val Mills:
Published in: Family