A peek into the dangers which young drivers face and how they are necessary to gain experience towards becoming better behind the wheel

Josh de Gracia

Staff Writer

     High school is a great place to learn new things and meet new people. However, when classes are over, students want to have fun with their friends. Especially with Halloween around the corner, the teens at American High School are making plans to meet up this October. There is one problem though. For most students, means of transportation are limited and people need a driver’s license to get around. More importantly, in a rush to attain a card that grants freedom, it’s easy to forget the dangers of the road and the responsibility that comes with driving. Nonetheless, these young adults must be exposed to these hazards to gain experience behind the wheel and better handle such scenarios for the future.

     Before their time on the road, students had different reasons for wanting to get a driver’s license. Etienne Rousseau (12) was aware of the problem that his lack of license presented to those around him.

     “[My parents] didn’t want to give me rides to places anymore, so in order to get to places, I had to ask my friends every time. Instead, I just got a license that way I could take myself and I could go wherever I want at any time.”

     Nitin Bharadwaj (12) also felt limited without the ability to drive.

     “Most of my friends had licenses before I got mine, so it definitely did get to me. Like, you’re there [at home], they’re having fun out here, they get to leave their house whenever they want.”

     For other students, attaining a driver’s license wasn’t a matter of leisure. Akshay Gona (12) depends on his license because he needs to get around for sports. 

     “I go to volleyball practice a lot. I play [in] grass tourneys, I play at the beach, [and] I play on indoor courts. So to get to practice, I gotta get around— and because my family has a third car, I would take that car.”

     Though their reasons for getting a license seemed urgent at first, the amount of time they actually spent exercising their ability to drive varied. Dishant Vandra (12) has been using his license for a long time.

New drivers have to find parking space under pressure before school starts in this tight lot. Dishant Vandra (12) shares his experience trying to find a place to park before his classes start. “It was the parking that took me a while to get down because you have to enter a parking spot at a certain angle—especially with a lot of cars being around, you don’t want to crash in a parking lot.”

     “I’ve been driving for about a year and a half.” He goes on to explain, “I started driving towards the beginning of quarantine. I started working on [my] driver’s ed[ucation] as soon as school was shut down around March or April.”

     On the other hand, Nitin has not been using his driver’s license as much as he had anticipated.

     “I got my license, at the beginning of August… I’ve had my license for about two months now and I don’t drive that much— I drive to school everyday but it’s really only a five minute drive.”

     Akshay also hasn’t been on the road for too long.

     “I got [my driver’s license] in April 2021, so that is close to 6 months [on the road] now.”

     However, in that small amount of time they spent behind the wheel, these students all experienced terrifying moments on the road. Akshay went on to share a particularly memorable incident he witnessed while driving. 

     “One of the weirdest things I’ve seen was a guy driving on the opposite side of the freeway. He made the turn at the ‘do not enter’ sign… where the other cars exit the freeway, he entered the freeway.”

     Etienne also had a memorable encounter with a reckless driver.

     “This one time this guy was swerving around and I had to be pretty safe around him. [The] guy was driving crazy and that was pretty close to getting into an accident. That was the scariest thing because the guy was swerving everywhere and I had to swerve out of his way. This was when I first got my license too which is pretty scary— a month into my license.”

     Dishant reflected on the dangers on the road saying,  “[Road rage] happens a lot more often than I thought it would. You’ll get on the road and there’ll be a lot of reckless drivers… I see a lot of drivers who speed and swerve through lanes and stuff.” He added, “I’ve driven around the Bay and down to S.D. even— San Diego— and on those roads you’ll meet a lot of crazy drivers.”

     Unfortunately, adults aren’t the only threat to student drivers on the road. Students are also a threat to each other since not all teenagers have the maturity to suppress reckless tendencies.

     Nitin explains teenagers’ daring nature to break the law. “I mean when you give a teenager a license, what do you expect? I don’t think you can just expect them to obey rules and just not drive other people because we are teenagers, we want to hang out.”

     Dishant also adds his observation on teenagers’ unnecessary boldness.

     “I’ve definitely heard of students who do that… a lot of students once they get their license— they don’t really pay attention to those rules where you’re not supposed to drive other minors before your first year of having your license. It’s a lot more prevalent than I thought it would be.”

     The actions of others cannot always be controlled, and these student drivers will never be fully safe on the road. However, there are steps that can be taken to master the art of defensive driving, and students need to learn these as young as possible so they can hone their driving skills for their future safety.

     Nitin is aiming to improve his awareness. He wants to be a better driver for his safety and the safety of those around him.

     “[I want to get better at] concentrating. It’s really easy when you’re at the wheel to just lose track of everything… it’s really easy to get lost in thought for sure because driving on the road— it’s like you’re caught up in a wave almost and you’re just going with the motion of the car.”

     Akshay wants to practice his freeway driving in which he has to manage the speed of his car.

     “What I want to improve most is freeway driving. I don’t really drive much on the freeway… the most dangerous part about the freeway is merging.”

     Different drivers have different weaknesses on the road. Some of these people never took the time to address their bad driving habits and are a liability to others. Because of this, the road which student drivers share won’t be perfect. However, this only makes it more crucial for these young adults to gain exposure to what awaits them so they can gain experience handling reckless drivers in the future.

Students’ cars await them in the cramped parking lot as the school day comes to an end. Nitin Bharadwaj (12) describes maneuvering his car during the hectic scene after school as he tries to exit the busy parking lot and has to be careful not to hit the numerous students jaywalking to a T4 nearby. “I was waiting [to make a turn at the exit of the parking lot], and the kids were crossing, right? And I was just thinking to myself: I really gotta trust my foot here—’cause if for some reason I take my foot off the brake, bro some kids are getting run over.”

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