The Problem with Having “Teenage Drivers”

Foreign Service LifeMalawi
September 21, 2017

So, if you remember back to one of my earlier posts, we decided to part ways with Davie, our Gardener/Driver. We found a replacement gardener/driver relatively quickly but unfortunately he had crashed our SUV on the 6th day of employment. It wasn’t terrible and is still driveable, so we’re just ignoring it for the time being. Here’s the damage from accident 1:

Before parting ways with Davie, we had also made the decision to send the ladies to driving school (by ladies I mean our nanny Esther and our cook Schorasticah). We primarily need a driver for grocery shopping (a miserable 4 hour affair that entails going to 4-6 stores) and other miscellaneous errands. Nia rides to and from school on a bus, so she’s covered for the most part, although when she starts after-school activities we’ll need the nanny to meet her there after school, help her get lunch and then make her way to the activity (like swimming lessons).

Esther and Schorasticah passed their driver’s tests in the first and second week of August. Perhaps it was a stupid move, but I naively encouraged them to take out our little car right away for grocery shopping. The first week of September Esther drove it for the week’s shopping. Unfortunately, the car did not return in the same shape it left in. While parking at the grocery store, Esther accidentally pressed the gas pedal instead of the brake and crashed into a little wall. Ooops! I don’t have a picture of that damage, but she basically scraped the front bumper and smashed the hood in a bit.

No one was hurt, so for that we were glad. She felt really bad though, so we didn’t get mad and reassured her that accidents happen. The following week Schorasticah passed her test on Monday and so I encouraged her to try doing the shopping/driving on Tuesday. Turns out that, too, was a bad idea, as Schorasticah ended up hitting a priest’s car and ripping our bumper off (her fault). Here are pics of accident 3 (a different car than was crashed before):

At this point Nick and I were reconsidering our driving strategy. The problem is, we need to have competent drivers because we’re both at work. And we’d just paid $200 a person for the girls to go to driving school, so if we didn’t have them keep getting behind the wheel, we knew they’d lose their courage and skills. But we also knew we couldn’t keep averaging 3 accidents a month or we were going to go broke.

Despite the fact that all our drivers are adults, it dawned on me that we’d be better off thinking of them as “teenage drivers” (given how new their skills are and how little road time they’ve had). We came to the decision that only he and I will drive the SUV and we’ll basically allocate the little car to the ‘teens’ with the knowledge that it may not be sellable by the end of our tour.

If I were to look for positives in this situation, one would definitely be that Esther and Schorasticah damaged the car in the same place and we hadn’t repaired Esther’s accident before Schorasticah crashed. So that was a win, right?! :) Also, labor is cheap here, so it’s only going to cost $350 to get the little car put back together.

I’m still not sure we have the best plan moving forward, but I also don’t see many choices. Would love any suggestions on how you’d go about handling this. We definitely won’t be letting anyone transport Nia for quite a while, that’s for sure…

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