Hitting the road

Aug. 21, 2022, 11:50 a.m. | By Alexander Liu | 1 year, 10 months ago

A guide through the path to a driver’s license

A "New Driver" sticker on the car of a student driver Photo courtesy of Maggie Megosh.

It’s summer! The sun is shining, the birds are chirping and it's the perfect time for a busy high school student to finally learn how to drive. 

For many, getting a driver's license offers not only a feeling of accomplishment, but also signals how one is getting ready to handle the responsibilities of an adult. 

That being said, the exact motivation for getting a license is different for each person. These could range from work commutes to wanting more independence from parents. Others hope to drive to and from school in senior year, to allow for a few more precious minutes of sleep, rather than a rush to the bus station. 

For rising Whitman junior Russell Abey, the motivation is convenience. “I'll be able to get my own food. I can contact other people, or get to them more easily. it'll be nice to be able to go places instead of having to walk there,” Abey says.

Others, like rising Blair junior Carlos Lopez were more focused on getting to and from school. “I'll probably drive [to] school senior year and work [during senior year]. If I go somewhere else for college, I'll need to know how to drive,” Lopez said. 

Unfortunately, it’s not that easy to get a driver’s license. Maryland employs a graduated licensing system, in which new drivers must go through multiple stages before attaining a full driver’s license. 

At 15 years and nine months of age, students are eligible to take the permit test and earn their driving permit. This allows them to drive only while accompanied by an adult with a valid license. 

After holding that license for nine months, along with completing a driver’s education class and 60 hours of supervised driving, one can move up to a provisional license. That license lets you drive alone with some extra caveats. 

Finally, after holding the provisional license for 18 months without convictions, the license is upgraded to a full driver’s license. 

The permit test can be especially daunting for rookie drivers, as you must pass with at least a 22/25. If you fail you must take the test again later. 

It can be inconvenient to study for the various tests during the school year, especially for upperclassmen that may be juggling AP classes, standardized testing, sports and clubs. For that reason, many students choose to hold off until the summer to learn how to drive.

One such student is rising junior Steven Wang, who chose to wait off until the summer to take his permit test. “[During the school year] it’s harder to take as much time out of the week to practice as you want to. I think there’s just more time in the summer to learn,” Wang says. 

Abey took driving classes during the summer, as opposed to taking time out of his weekends or schooldays to do so. “I took the ‘I Drive Smart’ course for two weeks over the summer to help prepare me for the permit test. It's also a requirement and it helps because getting it done over the summer means that you don't have to spend three hours every day or every weekend during school to do it,” Abey says. 

Another often overlooked reason students take the tests over the summer is due to late birthdays. Many students are simply forced to take it later as they do not meet the age requirements during the school year. 

Rising junior Amen Lemiesa reported that he’s taking the test over the summer due to his late birthday, not due to school workload. “I would take it any time. I don't think that it's difficult. I’m turning 16 in July, so I really had to do it around that [summer] time,” Lemiesa says. 

Going in for a permit test also includes a slew of required paperwork. That includes proof of identification, multiple proof of addresses, Confirmation of their social security number and more. 

“The hardest part for me was just getting all the right paperwork for the DMV, because that was a long and difficult process,” Wang says. 

The process for getting a driver’s license in Maryland is long and time consuming, requiring hours of dedication and practice. If you’re looking to get one, there’s no better time than the summer to get started. 

Students interested in getting a driver’s license should visit the MVA page here.

Last updated: Aug. 22, 2022, 4 p.m.

Tags: Cars Driving

Alexander Liu. Hi, I'm Alex (he/him) and I'll be a staff writer for SCO this year. I'm passionate about public policy and international relations. In my free time, I enjoy drawing and watching terrible rom-coms. More »

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