Senior Lia Kaufman walks to school every day since moving to the neighborhood. (Photo by Jackson Crawford)

Fewer students obtaining driver’s license on time or at all

Many students, including 12 of 35 seniors, have yet to obtain their California driver’s license. They’re all of eligible age, so why not?

State law says that anyone at least 15 1/2 years old may obtain a permit (allowing them to drive with a licensed adult) by passing a multiple-choice exam on the rules of the road. Six months after that permit is obtained, minors may upgrade it to a driver’s license — assuming they pass the behind-the-wheel test.

However, many students haven’t completed the online driving course required for their permit.

Of the 31 juniors polled, 12 said they haven’t received their license yet — all of eligible age as well — and six haven’t received their permit either.

The overarching answers as to why seem to be students’ busy lives, the cost and available alternatives.

Junior Alyssa Valverde, for example, received her permit but has hit a roadblock.

“I can’t drive legally yet because my permit isn’t validated,” Valverde said. “I haven’t taken even one of the six sessions with an instructor because it’s super expensive.”

To start practicing, Valverde needs a signature from her driving instructor after the first session.

Valverde, like many students, has to rely on parents to drive her to and from school every day.

“My mom drives everyone around,” she said. “My sisters have (even) Ubered before when my mom couldn’t get them.”

Senior Jacqueline Chao, meanwhile, let procrastination win. Putting off her permit, Chao waited until she was 16 1/2 before completing the written test.

“It wasn’t on my agenda,” Chao said. “Plus, I was too lazy to find an online course.”

After eventually taking the course and obtaining the permit, Chao didn’t upgrade to a license in time; after a year, her permit was no longer valid.

“I started driving a little, but it was so late that it was getting close to the expiration date,” Chao said.

Chao also said she’s used Uber when she couldn’t get a ride.

Ride-sharing could be one solution to lack of a driver’s license. However, junior Chris Wilson has his own mode of transportation.

“If I can’t get a ride from my mom, I’ll ride my bike,” Wilson said. “It is about a 20- to 25-minute bike ride (to school).”

Wilson explained that getting his license wouldn’t change anything.

“I haven’t taken the time to do it because even if I did have my license, I would not be able to drive to school every day,” he said. “My mom has work, and she’s always using the car, (so) I wouldn’t get a chance to practice anyway.”

Instead, students may opt to wait until their 18th birthday to legally skip the permit. Wilson, now 17 1/2, said he will wait to take a driving test later this year.

History teacher Sue Nellis remembers a time when licenses were more sought after.

“I have seen less interest in it over time,” Nellis said. “Some people are scared to drive because it’s hard.

“If parents are willing to drive and kids don’t mind, why not (let them)?”

Alternatively, students such as senior Jack Christian got their license as soon as possible.

Christian completed his written test the day he turned 15 1/2 so he could get his license on his 16th birthday.

“I was really excited about driving,” Christian said. “I loved practicing with my parents, and I wanted the freedom to drive to school, get food and do whatever I want.”

Some students live close enough to walk to school. Senior Lia Kaufman has her license but prefers to walk to school.

“There is no hassle of trying to figure out where to park, and I don’t have to worry about crossing Monroe,” Kaufman said.

However, Kaufman said it’s convenient for her to drive to soccer practice and friends’ houses.

Nellis reflected on her own experience growing up.

“My parents encouraged me even though I wasn’t going to get a car,” she said. “It was a rite of passage to get your license at 16 and all the freedom it gave me.”

By Jackson Crawford

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