By now, most of my high school peers and I have our driver’s licenses. We once dreamed of the day we would drive off in a car and arrive somewhere on our own instead of getting dropped off by our parents. We pictured ourselves cruising down El Camino Real with our friends; of being able to go anywhere we want, any time we want; parties, the beach, the mall — they would all be in our reach; we would literally be driving down Highway 1, wearing our aviator sunglasses with the convertible top down, listening to the radio. Suffice to say, this hasn’t happened yet, and the whole driving experience hasn’t quite lived up to those expectations. What happened along the way? Turns out, this newfound freedom also comes with newfound responsibility.
There are many laws regarding teens and driving, including with whom we can and cannot drive and what times we can be on the road. The most irrational rule to me is that for the first year after obtaining a drivers’ license, 16- and 17-year-olds can’t drive anyone else unless it is a parent or legal guardian, licensed driving instructor, person over 20 who has held a license for at least four years, or an immediate family member. This rule has inconvenienced me and my friends many times — I understand how a car full of kids could be distracting, especially if you don’t have a lot of experience driving, but what’s one friend going to do? In fact, having someone else in the car can be extremely helpful. A passenger can read directions aloud so you never have to take your eyes off the road, or warn you about someone backing out of a driveway who isn’t looking behind them.
Another reason why I question the logic of the “no friends” rule is our precious environment. Are we not trying to lower car emissions? The less we carpool with friends, the more cars there will be on the road that are releasing exhaust and polluting the air.
Perhaps the most stressful part about driving is knowing that one’s actions behind the wheel affect not only the other people in one’s car, but also all of the people in the surrounding cars. By this time, we’ve all seen too many videos about the tragic effects of texting and driving and not wearing one’s seat belt, so we should know better.
While being able to drive does have its perks, such as not having to rely on other people for rides, being able to leave whenever one wants, and being able to rock out on a whole new level, driving actually limits our freedom. When I was a little kid, I asked my parents if I could go outside to play and come inside when it got dark. Now I have to ask them if I can drive to my friend’s house, and then they want to know if we will be staying there and when I will be home and so on. The independence that comes with driving can be a good and bad thing. With a driver’s license, we can make it easier for our parents and guardians by getting places without needing them to drive us but, on the other hand, we have no one to blame when we are late to school. Not to mention that driving a car means maintenance, filling the tank and keeping it clean.
The responsibilities and my questions about the rules of driving remain, but I respect the process of being a good, safe driver. Driving hasn’t mirrored an Audi or Porsche commercial for me and my friends yet, but we still have our dreams.
Mari Andreatta is a junior at Notre Dame High School in Belmont. Student News appears in the weekend edition. You can email Student News at firstname.lastname@example.org.