Students take steps toward independence through driving

May 22, 2017 — by Karen Chow and Elaine Sun

However daunting, driving is a rite of passage into adulthood for most teens.

With white-knuckled hands gripping the steering wheel, junior Nathan Kang drove his Toyota minivan through an empty parking lot, his mother yelling in his ear.  

“Drive slower! You’re going to kill somebody!”

This was Kang’s first experience driving during his sophomore year, a moment that is shared by many students as they first set out to drive.

When a teen presses the gas pedal for the first time, a rush of nervousness and anxiety result. However daunting, driving is a rite of passage into adulthood for most teens.

“Adulthood is basically what all of us are going toward in our transition out of being a teen,” Kang said. “It’s where responsibility falls solely on us and we can say we're independent.”

Aside from being a step toward maturity, Kang also feels that learning how to drive has been a time-saver for both himself and his parents. Coming from a family whose motto is “own up to your own mistakes and actions,” Kang found that gaining independence from his supportive parents became less and less daunting.

“My parents want me to try to go my own way, to find myself, and I love the idea of being able to make decisions for myself, despite the consequences,” Kang said.

As he gets older, looking for work and getting his license has eased him into adult life. In his journey toward adulthood, Kang believes that an important aspect in this process is still respecting his elders and other people who have “guided him in the right path.” Kang said that it is important to stay humble and recognize that others have lived much longer than he has.

Like Kang, sophomore Madison Hartmann said that driving is a huge convenience because it saves time. She got her license promptly on her 16th birthday.

“I wanted to get my license at 16 because both my parents work, so I had to walk home from school every day,” Hartmann said. “Being able to drive is more convenient.”

Freshman Julia Yoo, who got her learner’s permit in December, feels that driving is “a necessary part of living” because it will become easier for her to get to activities after school once she gets her license. It allows for her to be able to go to different places without “bothering [her parents] and spending their time.”

Junior Sahm Rafati added that not only does having a license save time and create more independence, but it also makes the student become more self-sufficient.

“There’s a lot more responsibilities when you drive because it is very serious and you can’t take it as a joke,” Rafati said. “You have to be very careful when you drive.”

When Kang first got his license, he decided to ignore a stop sign in order to save time; however, this was a terrible decision because a car was about to drive right into him. Luckily, it stopped in time. Afterward, Kang realized how serious driving is and how important it is to follow the rules. Kang has “never ignored a stop sign after that.”

According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, (https://www.cdc.gov/motorvehiclesafety/teen_drivers/teendrivers_factsheet.html) 2,333 teens (ages 16 to 19) in the United States were killed in 2015, and 221,313 were treated in emergency departments for injuries suffered in motor vehicle crashes in 2014. In 2013, teens age 15 to 19 represented only 7 percent of the U.S. population, but they accounted for 11 percent, or $10 billion, of the total costs of motor vehicle injuries.

On April 17, junior Alex Vaziri was one of the many thousands of teenagers who are involved in a car accident each year.

Vaziri was driving down Beaumont Avenue passing the intersection at Saratoga Vista Court as he approached a two-way stop sign. He did not have a stop sign in front of him so he continued to drive forward. However, a car on his left rolled through her stop sign and was about to hit him on the left. Trying to avoid a collision with the car, Vaziri swerved out of the way, consequently crashing into a brick fence.

“I think the one thing I learned from my experience is that you never know what can happen on the road,” said Vazari. “I would always tell my parents that I would never crash, and although it wasn't my fault, I still ended up crashing.”

After the accident Vazari went to the emergency room and luckily did not have any serious injuries. Although the accident was not his fault, Vazari now better understands the dangers of driving and was “definitely scared to get back on the road.” Despite this fear, he forced himself to drive again, knowing he would need to face his fear eventually in order to get to places he needed to be.

Even with the risks, for most, driving means more freedom, responsibility and independence. However, senior Daniel Liu does not feel the need to drive — at least not yet.

“I got my permit as a sophomore but I never had the time to practice it so it expired in my junior year,” said Liu. “I didn’t feel the need to retake it especially since APUSH was killing me at the time.”

He is actually happy he doesn’t drive yet, arguing he feels privileged to be given rides in the way that millionaires and billionaires are driven around by chauffeurs.

Seemingly the more typical view is the one held by Kang:

“I feel like driving is a privilege that comes with age. In that sense, you become an adult and it is a step towards becoming your own independent person separate from your parents.”