A Dive into Student Drivers
Not waiting a moment longer than necessary, junior Adiel Livnat started driving as soon as he received his permit. “I drove myself halfway home from the DMV,” he recounted. Adiel described the experience of “finally driving” as liberating and “so fun… it met my expectations.” Driving for the first time brought back memories for Adiel of his early “fascination” with driving— of sitting on his mom’s lap in a parking lot as a younger child and helping her steer the wheel of a parked car.
When it comes to driving, many AJA students take a similar route. Georgia law allows residents to take a computerized test and receive their Learners Permit as early as their fifteenth birthday. They can then take a driving test for their license one year and one day after receiving their permit. Of a sample size of 50 AJA High School students, the majority of students of driving age applied for their permit and license as early as possible within these guidelines. Amongst those who currently have a learner’s permit, 43.75% of respondents got their permit within a week of their fifteenth birthday and 75% received their permit within six months of their birthday. Of those who currently have a license, 42.10% received it exactly one year and a day after receiving their permit. More broadly, 63% received their license within a month of their eligibility and 94.4% within six months.
Adiel, who got his permit on his fifteenth birthday and his license one year and one week later, justified his eager approach: “the longer you wait, it’s just the longer you don’t have as much freedom as you would when you have your license.” He added that he sees no reason “why not” to aim for the “unmatched” freedom that comes with a license.
Many students agree with Adiel that reaching the end goal of a license grants them greater independence. Junior Avi Isaacs expressed a common opinion amongst students: “My ability to drive helps me get from point A to point B comfortably.” Students with a license feel flexible in that they “don’t have to ask around for rides or… depend on others,” as junior Aiden Smolensky put it. Such student drivers use their license for a myriad of purposes, including driving to school, meeting friends, and going to stores. Junior Asher Lytton elaborated, “[My license] is convenient for my parents because they don’t have to drive me places.” This grants him “a level of independence [he] wouldn’t otherwise get.” Asher uses his license to go to school events off campus, “out with friends, to the Spicy Peach to get a panini, or just to a park to go for a walk.” Thus, student drivers can flexibly transport themselves to a variety of locations.
Although not yet qualified for a license or permit, those under 15 years of age anticipate the freedom that student drivers claim to experience. For instance, Freshman Daniella Frank explained that, especially because of her later August birthday, she plans to jump at the first opportunity to get her permit, and ultimately license, simply “to drive.” She looks forward to driving with her friends and experiencing the “fun times” fostered by the mobility a license provides. Many younger students share Daniella’s sentiments. In fact, of the 14% of respondents under 15 years of age, 85.71% plan to get their permit within the week of their fifteenth birthday.
In addition to independence, a license provides students with the option of a consistent ride to school. Sophomore Yaakov Wasserman got his permit within two weeks of his July birthday to ensure that next year, he will be eligible for a license before school starts. Yaakov plans to drive himself to school next year and no longer rely on the Toco Hills bus, which leaves earlier than he prefers. Sophomore Noa Geller similarly plans to get her license this summer and start driving herself and her younger sister to school in the future instead of taking the bus.
Like Noa, 43.75% of students with a permit plan to drive a carpool to school upon attaining their license. For example, although freshman Liav Cohen’s senior sister currently drives him to school, Liav already has his permit and plans to drive himself and his younger sister to school next year. In the meantime, Liav benefits from “gracious student drivers” who offer to transport him to sports games and practices. Liav feels that the phenomenon of upperclassmen student drivers transporting lowerclassmen fosters community bonds. He explains, “when I become a driver, I’m planning on continuing the cycle of driving the underclassmen who don’t have rides for themselves.” Senior Ezra Feen is on the giving side of the student driver carpool transaction and described driving his sister and others who might need a ride to school as “a nice responsibility.”
Although most students at AJA attain or plan to attain their permits and licenses as soon as they can, some do not feel as drawn to driving. Junior Zellik Silverberg received his permit on his fifteenth birthday over a year and a half ago but deferred his license. Unlike students who enjoy the independence of a license, his sole reason for getting one “would just be to drive back and forth from school.” Zellik attested that he does not feel the need for a license to get out of the house of his own volition, and, for now, he is satisfied with using the Toco Hills Bus for transportation to school. Similarly, senior Doran Levin waited longer than six months following his fifteenth birthday to get his permit; after that, he waited another 23 months to receive his license. Doran explained his slow approach: “I very rarely drive myself and almost always get to places using other methods— walking, getting a ride, etc.” Despite this, Doran feels comforted with a license that provides “the ability and freedom to drive somewhere if… necessary.” Although a minority, amongst the 38% of form respondents with a license, 26.32% waited more than six months after their fifteenth birthday to get their permit and 5.26% waited more than a year and a half to receive their license following their permit.
For the 16% of respondents who are eligible for a permit but do not yet have one, 87.5% stated they have “just not had time to get around to it,” meaning that for most of these students, not having a permit stems from logistical constraints rather than indifference regarding driving or parental disapproval.
Much of the AJA High School student body looks forward to the process of attaining their permit and license as a method of augmenting their independence and flexibility as they enter into the world of student drivers. Currently, 38% of AJA High School students have a license and 32% have a permit. Considering the strong motivation students exhibit to drive, however, this figure will likely increase over the course of the year as students meet eligibility thresholds.