Let’s Go Drive… Or Maybe Not

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Sydney Leahy, Staff Writer

A driver’s license; the international sign of freedom. For generations, getting a driver’s license has meant the ability to go anywhere at any time. No more relying on friends or family for a ride. It meant driving to the mall to walk around aimlessly for hours, driving to the movies to see the latest hit film, or driving to a friend’s house to hang out and talk. How do current day teens view driving, and how has Covid-19 affected their driving, if at all?

It appears that the teenagers of today are less excited to get a license than ever before. Some are too anxious to drive, some can’t afford to buy a car, and many don’t see the need to drive when they could have their parents or a friend drive them. 

“I got my license earlier this year[…],” said junior Emma Hall. “I was very hesitant to drive at the beginning. Even when I had my license I still asked my parents to come with me places because I couldn’t get the courage to go anywhere alone. […] The idea of driving new places alone gave me so much anxiety and still gives me anxiety.”

On the other hand, junior Natalie Brown was ecstatic to get her license.

“I’m so excited that I have!” said Brown. “It has opened up so many possibilities. I’m really lucky also that I have a car. Paying for gas and maintenance and all that is not fun though.”

Though she was slightly hesitant to drive in the beginning, Brown’s excitement eventually eliminated any fears that she had.

“A little [hesitant], but not really,” said Brown. “The excitement totally drowned out the nervousness. I think it’s great learning to drive in Atlanta as well because if you can drive here, I would say you could drive pretty much anywhere.”

After passing the test for the driver’s permit and taking a course on driver’s safety, the final and most stressful hurdle to finally getting a driver’s license is the ominous road test.

Brown found herself traveling great distances in order to take her test.

“I […] went very, very far to get mine,” said Brown. “It was the only location that had open spots and I was itching to get my license, so my dad and I drove all the way to Cumming which was forty five minutes to an hour away.”

As for her actual examination, though she was nervous, she found it relatively unchallenging.

“My actual test was super easy,” said Brown. “I was very nervous, but I really shouldn’t have been worried. They actually had to make the driving portion of the test shorter because there was some construction on the normal driving route, so I kind of got off easy.”

She found it so unchallenging, in fact, that she befriended her driving instructor.

“They say to not talk to the driving instructor, but him and I talked the whole time. I found out he used to live in the same area as me, but then moved out to Cumming to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city.”

Hall had a similar experience for the most part, only having trouble with parallel parking.

“Nothing too strange happened,” said Hall. “But with my parallel parking, I got points taken off because I was a few inches too far from the curb.”

Brown has found her driving habits to be mostly unchanged by Covid.

“[…] I have a lot more opportunities to go hang out with friends, even though it is looking different this year,” said Brown. “I wouldn’t say that the pandemic has affected my driving necessarily, since I only had my permit before the pandemic, but I will say that it has really helped me stay more positive. If I’m having a bad day and just need to get out of the house, it’s been really great to just drive around the neighborhood, especially with the windows down and the music up.” 

Emma feels mostly the same, with the only changes being made to her parking.

“Nothing’s really changed with my driving, but parking has definitely changed,” said Hall. “I now park as far away from the other people in the parking lot as possible.”

Though Covid appears to have not affected those with a license, it has proved to be quite troublesome for those trying to get their permit. 

Sophomore Gabi Barrios feels that Covid has affected her ability to get her driver’s permit.

“Definitely, I would say,” said Barrios. “[…] It has been hard to find an appointment and get records because I can’t just go to the school and get them.”

These roadblocks haven’t dampened her interest in earning her permit and eventually her license, though.

“I mean it sounds exciting for sure, and I would like to be able to drive myself to my own places, so I’m excited, a little bit nervous. Yeah, it’ll be good.” 

In her brief time on the road, Brown has picked up a few helpful tips for future drivers.

“I would say just know what you’re comfortable with and what you’re not,” said Brown. “If you feel uncomfortable driving on the interstate, then that’s okay. It’s better to feel safe and get there slower than possibly getting into an accident trying to get somewhere quicker. And please do not text and drive. Pull over if you need to text someone, or wait, because most of the time it’s not that important. Like I said before, it’s better to be safe than sorry.”

Driving is a massive milestone, and whether people decide to learn now or later, it’s a major step for many in becoming an adult. 

“[…] Driving is such a fun thing and a big step and I would really encourage people to get their licenses,” said Brown. “It’s a big step in responsibility, I know, and especially if you have a car, but it’s preparing you for big real life things that are coming. But all the responsibility is so totally worth it.”