I Wouldn’t Walk 500 Miles: Students Try to Learn Driving

Susan Ballesteros, Staff Writer

COVID-19 has taken away in-person school and socialization, but it cannot take away driving. Despite the pandemic, students at LASA have continued to work towards getting their licenses.

In order to get their license, students must first get their permit, complete a driver’s education course either online or through a physical school and practice for a certain number of hours both during the day and at night. Then, finally, they must pass an on road driving test approved by the Department of Public Safety (DPS) office. The experience varies from person to person, including the reasons for learning to drive, but the overall guidelines remain the same. Freshman Sofia Francis recently started to learn how to drive.

“I haven’t done legitimate driving lessons, and my parents have been pretty strict about actually driving on roads,” Francis said. “The closest I’ve gotten to it is me on a ranch and driving around, so basically no obstacles, just learning to accelerate and brake smoothly.”

Francis plans on taking the driver’s education course at either the Department of Public Safety (DPS) or McCallum High School once she turns 15. Senior Andra Key has also recently started learning how to drive, but she has been taking an online driver’s education course called Aceable instead.

“The amount [of driving] I’ve done isn’t the most, but I’ve really been enjoying it,” Key said. “I’m excited for when I finally get my license because most of my friends by now have their license, and it’s really freeing to be able to go places.”

According to sophomore Samantha Mason, Aceable offers videos and slideshow presentations on rules students need to know while driving, followed by multiple-choice questions to make sure the information was learned. Mason has been taking Aceable on her computer and then practicing driving with her dad.

“I got my permit like a month ago, so I have five more months of required time for my permit,” Mason said. “If I finish the rest of the curriculum and the required number of hours in five months then I can get my license then, but the lessons don’t take very long, so I’m sure I’ll be done in a month or so.”

Junior Sadhana Kumar is also taking the Aceable course. Currently, her driving lessons are focused on the practicing aspect, and she occasionally drives her parents for practice.

“The first part where you just learn the parts of the car and you drive in circles in the parking lot, it’s not that fun, but once you actually get to drive on the road, it’s fun,” Kumar said. “You feel very independent.”

Kumar also mentioned that, directly following the quarantine order in March, there were fewer drivers on the road, which helped with her practice. Key also spoke of other differences and similarities between learning to drive before and after the quarantine order.

“I do know that I didn’t need a VOE…to get my permit,” Key said. “In terms of driving lessons, my dad is doing it with me, so it wouldn’t have changed for me, I think, if it wasn’t during COVID it would be the same.”

While COVID-19 may not affect online driver’s education, it does affect in-person learning. Francis mentioned being unsure when she would start learning if it is still not safe to go to in-person school by the start of next semester.

“I would start driving school in February, assuming that [COVID-19] is dying down and I can do it safely, but if I can’t, then who knows when I’ll start driving for real,” Francis said. “Maybe whenever we can legally go out and stuff and feel safe doing so.”

Mason has more experience with actual driving. She said she enjoys it and especially looks forward to being able to do it on her own.

“I really like driving,” Mason said. “I’m really excited to get my license and not have to drive with a parent in the car.”

Junior Pete Bates has already gotten his license and described what it was like to take the test. According to him, it was easier than expected.

“I just did the lessons and then signed up for my driving test after practicing driving for seven-ish months with my parents in the car,” Bates said. “Then I sent in all of the forms to the DPS through email and got the driver’s license 10 days later, there wasn’t really a lot of drama, which is surprising. It was nerve-racking, but if you practice driving for a long time, even with your parents in the car, you feel like you’re somewhat confident in it. I didn’t like being tested on it, but I understood that it was integral.”

This nervousness is common among students still learning to drive, including Kumar. According to her, there are also positives to driving.

“Sometimes, it’s kind of scary because you don’t know what you’re doing, but once you get the hang of it, it’s actually kind of fun to drive around everywhere,” Kumar said. “You feel in control of something, and it’s a nice feeling.”