Urban School students question necessity of driver’s license

Ilana Brandstetter, Staff Writer

In a compact city like San Francisco, many teens find driver’s licenses unnecessary. Other means of transportation, like buses, Über, and biking, have made driving obsolete.

Though San Francisco teens can be just as excited to drive as are high schoolers elsewhere in the country, if the novelty wears off, the consequences are not necessarily dire. “When I was 15, the whole thought of being able to drive was exciting. I ended up getting my permit right after my 16th birthday, but (my mom) wouldn’t let me drive my brother, so I couldn’t drive to school, and I just didn’t have a lot of time to (practice),” said Corina Phillips (’16). “There is a big hour requirement, and I had driven for 20 minutes. So I just didn’t take the driving test.” Phillips’ permit expired, and she plans on waiting until she is 18 to try again so that she does not have to take driver’s education and wait 6 months until getting her license. “I live in a city and I don’t need (a car),” said Phillips.

Many students listed the lack of a pressing reason to get their license as a reason for putting it off. “I kind of did (feel rushed to get my license), I just never got around to it,” said Colin Heath (’17). “I have friends who got their permits as soon as they turned 15 1/2, but I was not ready.” Though it is not expected to learn to drive at 16 for many city teens, friends with licenses are still appreciated. “Some of my friends are getting their licenses, so I figure if I really need a ride somewhere I can ask them. But plenty of my friends don’t have their licenses either, so I don’t feel like I’m the only one without it,” said Claire Beckstoffer (’17). “It’s sort of 50/50. Some people (get licenses at 16) and then other people don’t really care.”

It is not uncommon at Urban to find seniors who can’t drive. “I dont even have my permit,” said Nikki Kimzey (’15). “I went to the DMV after taking drivers ed (and forgot my paperwork). I haven’t had a chance to go back because of college things. But the reason why I waited so long to get my permit was because most of my friends can drive at this point, and because I’ve always taken the bus … that’s how I’ve always gotten around the city, and it’s still there, and it’s still convenient.”

“People would think that drivers who are 18 might be more mature, and be more responsible for themselves since they’re adults, but I don’t really see that. I know drivers who are 18 who are not as good drivers as people who are 16 or 17. And I have sometimes felt a lot safer with people who started driving when they were younger,” said Kimzey.

Driving is thought of as an induction into adulthood for American teens, but for many Urban students, it lacks the excitement of freedom and independence.

“I’m scared of driving,” said Vanessa Gershbein (’15). “It’s a lot of responsibility, I think it shouldn’t be taken lightly. In all seriousness, I think people should be ready to drive when they choose to.”

Although avoiding the DMV all together is practical for many Urban students living in the city, a drivers license remains important for some students living in suburbs. “I live in Marin, so it’s kind of hard to get into the city. It would be a lot easier to drive,” says Sarah Fingerhood (’17), who often gets rides from family members or takes the ferry into San Francisco. “A lot of my friends would be able to get their licenses in a couple of weeks or months, but they haven’t even gotten their permits yet,” said Fingerhood.