My best friend’s son turns 17 next month.
She’s busily booking driving lessons for his birthday; lining up a banger for when he passes.
She realises not that she is about to join a new branch of the Mother Club. Membership is compulsory. The common bond, dread. The child that you created, nurtured, protected from the merest scratch is now out there, probably bombing around like it’s Grand Theft Auto meets Top Gear, showing off to his mates in the metal box that could become his coffin.
Once he’s mobile, she will feel like her heart has been ripped from her chest and thrown off a motorway bridge. I know this, for I am the mum of a lad on wheels. I’ve gone to bed actually praying for the spirit of his grandpa to go sit in the passenger seat and ensure the boy he last saw aged five gets home safely. I’ve woken at hourly intervals to check if his car is parked outside, or to send texts I’ve strived to make sound light-hearted, about some bit of nothing. Actually, they are just to see if he’s alive.
He saw getting his license as a right of passage; it gave him the car-keys to manhood. Most young male drivers are exactly like him. Driving is macho. It’s freedom. Fun. And 27 per cent of them crash within first year. One out of every 451 17-year-old male drivers is killed or seriously injured.
Mine wrote his car off within months. Fortunately, it was only our stone gateposts he hit. Wadsley teen Joseph Woodhouse was jailed this week for three years - because when he lost control of his car, it ended in utter tragedy. One of his three friends, Lewis Shaw, was killed, another seriously injured.
Joseph had only been driving for eight months. The searing pain and anger Lewis’s parents must feel. He was just 20. He died because Joseph lost control at twice the speed limit. But how can you not feel for Joseph and his family? He has to live with what he did.
Your son - or mine - could so easily be in his prison cell.