Yesterday's tragic story on Jordan Harrington-Dingley made for sobering reading.

At just 20 years old, he went from what his mother Megan described as "a very physical and outdoorsy sort of boy" to being paralysed from the chest down.

A passenger in a car that reportedly lost control near Waipukurau last month, he was thrown from the vehicle and now spends his days in Christchurch Hospital.

His parents make frequent visits to his bedside, but his siblings have not been able to see him since his move from Hawke's Bay Hospital.

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A poignant line, among many, was from his mother: "We can't actually function as a family as such at the moment."

Anyone who has a teenager progressing through the first tiers of driver licensing can feel the family's pain. One wonders if our young ones are genuinely ready to gauge the potential dangers and trauma of two vehicles passing each other in opposite directions at 100km/h, with only a painted line separating the projectiles.

Cynically (which is what we parents tend to become if we spend too long contemplating the risks) it seems a crazy gamble letting young people get up to speed by trial and error.

Years ago, a war vet told me of his experiences learning to fly the British Spitfire. He claimed the scariest thing as a young pilot was his first flight. I wasn't sure why this would be Spitfire-specific, until he reminded me the lauded aircraft was a single-seater and hence there was no possibility of having an instructor sit with you on your virgin flight - let alone virgin landing. It was all you.

At some stage we all need to trust our children's judgment and allow them to attempt their first flight. Parents can only hope for a safe landing.