Teens on wheels: licensed to drive

I still remember the day I got my license because I barely passed my test. I was mostly fine. I used correct signals; I correctly parallel parked. In fact, it was perfect until the end, when I had to do a three point turn and then my instructor “hit the brakes” when a car passed by. They chalked my poor-decision making up to nerves and said that I had done great otherwise; I had a license!

I couldn’t have been more excited to have the freedom of being able to travel without the use of a parent or bus; it just allowed so many opportunities. I was finally be independent, able to travel more freely. I always try to be safe, but after being rear-ended by someone on their phone, I realized that you only have control over your own driving, not everyone else on the road.

I was interested in learning about national trends related to driving and also talking to ARHS drivers about their own positive and negative experiences with driving, the cost of having a vehicle, and responsibilities and freedoms that come with driving.

Getting your license is often seen as a milestone in one’s life but recently more teens have been scared to drive than ever. According to a survey done by The Zebra, one fourth of teens without their license are simply too scared to learn to drive.

It’s not just teens who are nervous, either; that same survey also stated that 58% of parents are afraid of their kids driving. This makes sense, considering teens are three times as likely to be involved in a fatal car crash than adults, according to the CDC.

Driving can be a scary experience especially when first starting out, given that you will make many mistakes as you are learning; that is the case with every new driver, and the students at ARHS are no different.

The four drivers I spoke to were Ammar Abdel-Maksoud, Dimitris Son, Jamie Hafner, and Malina Kern. One thing drivers were excited to talk about was the mistakes they have made but learned from.

Son believes that his “biggest mistake is probably using my phone while I drive (which) is a big mistake because I get stuck and I lose focus.” He thinks that this can be a destructive but common habit that he advises new drivers not to pick up.

Abdel-Maksoud’s problem habit is speeding. He said when he was starting out, he would often find himself “going too fast.” The speed limit is often used as more of a guide than a firm rule; it’s legal to go over it for a variety of reasons, like passing or if a driver’s safety is threatened. But making it an everyday thing puts other drivers in harm’s way and increases a driver’s likelihood of getting an expensive speeding ticket.

Your first car is a near sacred machine, one that most people remember throughout their lives, but what is often forgotten is the cost that comes with it. Kern said that her major expenditures are “gas and insurance” which are both recurring costs that have to be paid often.

Cars are also imperfect machines. Over time, they degrade. Car repairs are the one cost where parents will often help out. Maksoud said that when his car has trouble, “usually my dad handles it, but occasionally I have to give in to the mechanic.”

The ability to drive is like entering into an entirely new world, one where you are able to travel many miles in no time at all. It is for many the first step of becoming an adult.  

For Hafner the draw to driving was the independence it offers. Her favorite aspect of driving is being able to “go wherever I want and do whatever I want.”