Perhaps the most eagerly awaited non-academic milestone one hopes to reach during high school is driving. It seems to me that every approach one learns to get from one place to another serves as a cause for celebration — learning to crawl, walk, bike, successfully navigate public transportation, etc. — but none are even remotely as exciting as learning how to drive.
And it makes sense. Driving is so cool. The very quintessence of independence and grown-up-ness. The most notable distinction between the different grade levels. Moreover, driving is incredibly convenient.
I, however, am nearing the end of my senior year and I do not drive. It’s not like anything is stopping me; I no longer spend my time studying for standardized tests, I already know where I’ll be attending college, and it’s not like I am crippled by the stress of the senior-year workload. I have the time and, because I’m 18, I wouldn’t even need to wait six months after receiving my permit to take my license test.
I have been long chastised by my peers because I don’t drive — rightfully so. I admittedly exploit the benefits of having friends and siblings who do drive. And I too was once an eager and impatient 15-year-old who couldn’t wait for the day that I could take the permit exam. I completed driver’s ed, yet I never took the test. I told myself that I would take it the following month. But a month turned into nearly two years, and now here I am.
The truth is, I wasn’t ready. As someone who has been in a fair number of car accidents — although none that were really bad — and someone who has witnessed some truly awful ones, I do not take driving lightly. Driving might be the kind of skill that you pick up quickly, but that doesn’t mean it becomes any less dangerous. When you sit behind the wheel, you become responsible for your life, your passengers’ lives, and the lives of other drivers. It is expected of you that you stay in control and are alert at all times. And that is not a responsibility that I felt ready to undertake.
Just because I had turned 15 and a half and was legally allowed to begin the process doesn’t mean that I felt comfortable. I understand that my friends who drive are probably sick of driving me around and hope that I eventually just get my license. I appreciate that sometimes I need a push when it comes to doing things that frighten me. But the pressure and judgement can be a little overwhelming.
That being said, I think I might be ready now. Some people might say that it’s about time. But I think it is tremendously important that more teenagers evaluate for themselves whether or not they are truly ready to take on the responsibilities that come with driving. Driving might not seem as dangerous as it really is. But, just as checking your mirrors and signaling is your duty as a driver, it is your duty to others and yourself, to make sure that you are both ready and comfortable when you not only begin driving, but every time you get behind the wheel.