Many teenagers see their first trip to the DMV as a rite of passage and look forward to the day when they are able to drive over the bridge without a chaperone. In the state of California, teens are eligible for a driving permit six months after their fifteenth birthday. The permit test is mainly composed of questions about the basic rules of the road, including signs, signals, and laws. After passing the permit test, the teen must clock fifty hours behind the wheel as well as six hours of professional driving instruction. After six months, teenagers typically take the driving test (sometimes multiple times until a passing score is received) and earn their license.
However, not everyone gets their license as soon as they turn sixteen. In an informal survey of fifty students at Coronado High, it was found that just 24% receive their driver’s license within one month of their sixteenth birthday. 20% of those surveyed waited between one and three months to pass their driving test, 30% passed the test between three and six months after their sixteenth birthday and 26% of students didn’t get their driver’s license for six or more months after turning sixteen.
Morgan T., a seventeen-year-old junior at CHS, got her driver’s license on her sixteenth birthday. “I wanted the freedom to go wherever I wanted,” she said. “My parents work and they can’t drive me to all of the places that I need to be.” In Coronado, we have many transfer students that come to our schools from over the bridge. In the case of these students, it makes sense for them to get their driver’s licenses as soon as possible so that they are able to drive themselves to school instead of relying on their parents or on train and ferry schedules.
Some students, however, choose to stay off the road for a variety of reasons. Soaring gas prices, subpar grades, and even a lack of necessity keeps students from ever opening the California Driver’s Handbook. Coronado is such a walkable place – for example, a stroll from First Street to North Beach takes around half an hour – that local teenagers and parents alike just don’t see a reason for teenagers on the road. Another obvious reason for students waiting to take the test is the already constrained free time for today’s teenagers. Between school and homework, extracurricular activities, social engagements and family obligations, many students are simply too busy to spend their after-school hours taking driver’s education. “I haven’t found the time to begin my online classes,” said Molly K., a CHS sophomore who turns sixteen in May, “but I’d like to get my permit sometime soon.”
Most high school students get their driver’s license by the time they head to college. For many, the plastic identification card is a symbol of independence. Some students rush to gain their driver’s license as quickly as possible, but others choose to stay in the passenger seat for a little while longer.
Online Editorial Intern
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