Hitting the Breaks on Driving


While many seniors waited with bated breath for their parking spots to be announced earlier this year, Amy Jia wasn’t one of them: she’s one of many Hockaday students who have delayed their behind-the-wheel adventures.

Jia, who got her driver’s permit in December 2015, hopes to get her full license by the end of 2016. She and her older sister, Lori ‘16, were both learning to drive at the same time, so Jia put her driver’s education on hold and let her older sister take the wheel.

“We only had one extra car for the both of us to drive, and she was using it most of the time,” Jia said. “So I hadn’t really started driving until the summer of this year.”

Now, Jia drives back and forth from Plano to school, with her father as her co-pilot to show her the ropes. Ideally, she would practice that journey every day, but that doesn’t always work out. “What usually prevents me from driving is having to get up early for morning [crew] practice. We have to get there at 6 a.m.,” Jia said. “I just don’t feel like I’d be a good driver with three hours of sleep.”

Although those conditions admittedly aren’t the best for Jia to practice, Plano All Star Driving School manager Don Vinson says that frequent practice is the most important part of learning to drive.

“When I first started teaching driver’s education class, class was three weeks long; you could finish all of driver’s education in less than a month,” Vinson said. “So that was the length of your experience level, one month, and now you’re out there driving a car. That’s just the way the law was.”

Now, young students benefit from getting their permits at 15 years old, practicing for the mandatory six months and testing for their license when they turn 16. Not all students, however, can stick to that schedule.

Upper School Attendance Coordinator Jessica Kramer acknowledges that time commitments have caused a trend of teenagers delaying their licenses. Both her daughters, Bebe and Yogi Sullivan (17 and 15, respectively), worked on getting their permits and licenses as soon as they could.

“I do think it’s a time factor,” Kramer said. “It was an issue with scheduling. [Bebe] ended up doing it when she could online.”

Sometimes this works in students’ favors; although in Texas, people can start the classroom portion of driver’s education at 14 (and the practical part at 15), Vinson notes that these young classrooms aren’t always the most effective.

“When we have a classroom that has a lot of 14-year-olds, it’s a very immature class,” Vinson said. “Oddly enough, they wait a year or six months and then they come back at 15 and they do better.”

In addition to costing time, Kramer also thinks that another reason teenagers tend to wait before driving has to do with cost. “When you look at insurance and the car, that tends to add up too,” Kramer said. “Insurance for [teenagers] is not cheap. Our insurance almost doubled when we added my daughter’s to ours.”

According to research website ValuePenguin, the average cost per year to insure a 16-year-old driver is $8,226; in less than 10 years of driving experience, that average drops to $2,374.

Adding to external factors like time and money costs, Vinson thinks a lack of internal motivation has also led to the rise in age of newly licensed drivers.

“I think the biggest culprit of why this is happening is because of social media,” Vinson said.  “When I was a kid, if I wanted to go see my friends, I had to drive and go see my friends. Now you can sit at home and get on social media. People don’t need to drive as much.”

Kramer’s nephews, who are 19 and 16, respectively, do not have their licenses either. While Kramer thinks the rush to get one’s license has certainly decreased from her Hockaday days, she notes that not being licensed can put a damper on life post-high school.

“My nephew is in college, he’s an instructor on a black belt committee, and he had to get a ride from someone else’s mom to get a ride to a meeting the other day,” Kramer said.

At that age, Vinson said, the push for driver’s education usually comes from the parents instead of the students.

“That really has an impact on the type of student that you have. When I took driver’s education, I had enthusiasm for doing it,” Vinson said. “Now it seems like the ones who are forced to do it, they’re in no hurry at all to get through it.”

Jia agrees that driving gives students, especially in high school, a sense of independence and responsibility, but at the same time, doesn’t regret waiting to get her license.

“I don’t feel like I’ve lacked a lot in my high school experience not being able to drive,” Jia said. “I think it just depends on an individual’s circumstances.”

– Maria Katsulos- Business Manager –