Is Driving School Actually Helpful?

Every morning, if you commute to Blake by driving, you would know that the student parking lot is a complete mess. It’s arguably worse trying to get out when everyone tries to leave the building at the same time; personally, I’m surprised there aren’t catastrophes every day.

Some of this, undoubtedly, can be attributed to the large population of new student drivers, found at any high school ever. I give props to everyone who was able to go through the whole process of getting their license. It’s difficult and tedious. However, the WORST part of getting your license has to be attending driving school.

In order to fulfill the requirement of passing driving school, you have to go through two components; going to classes and passing a final, and passing six hours worth of “Behind the Wheel” time, also commonly referred to as “drive time.” By doing so, the MVA knows that you’ve learned enough to be able to try getting your license (after additionally getting at least 60 hours of driving experience total, with 10 of those hours being at night).

Due to COVID, I took my driving school classes online. I was able to shorten the amount of time it would take me to complete the course by scheduling them on weekdays for two weeks in a row; three hours a day. At first this seemed like an excellent idea; my sisters previously took their driving school classes in-person and it took them closer to three months to finish, since they only had the time to do one class a week. Although it comes with any long class that you have to participate in daily, driving school completely drained my energy.

“I did it online,” comments junior Nate Lara. “Most of my time was spent trying not to fall asleep.”

Going into more of the specifics; the driving school I attended seemed to be mainly assisting people trying to get their permit. All of the lessons reviewed topics read in the Maryland driver’s manual, something you study in order to pass your permit test. Since I already got my permit and was taking the class to get my license, each lesson was going over things I already knew. If it wasn’t a requirement, it would’ve been a complete waste of time.

“I didn’t get much out of the in-school classes; they were too long and boring,” says senior Sarah Clark.

After asking around, I learned that seeing multiple graphic car crash videos and sob stories was not a normal thing to experience in driving school; the one I attended seemed more than fond of that lesson plan. They all spread the messages, “Don’t speed,” and “Don’t text while driving;” very early on I learned to take out my earbuds and do something else while they were playing, for the sake of my mental wellbeing. I could’ve survived the entirety of those two weeks without seeing any of those videos and walked away with the same caution.

Because the class was so boring and repetitive, I spent so much class time just texting other people. That could just be a fault of online classes, but even so that version of driving school isn’t a beneficial learning environment for many. If it wasn’t repetitive for me or if I had already completely forgotten everything that was in the manual, I still wouldn’t have gotten anything out of the class because it was tremendously easy to pass the tests. AND, since it’s online, people are for sure going to be cheating. Ultimately, it really doesn’t help create safer drivers.

“I did it online and I was zoned out the entire time,” comments junior Amy Lamb. “I remember absolutely nothing.”

The drive time is actually somewhat helpful. When it comes to parking and walking through some of the license tests, I’d like to think I learned a good lot. Getting more experience behind the road can never be a bad thing, but actually doing it in the driving school cars with pushy instructors gets annoying really quickly. My instructor in particular was heavy on his brakes (in driving school cars, there’s a brake in the passenger’s seat for emergencies. EMERGENCIES.) and also seemed to love trying to steer for me, while we were on the road. I had to collapse on my bed after each session because of how hard I had to concentrate to keep full control of the vehicle. My instructor was essentially working against me.

(I feel like I should note that I am a very safe driver; my instructor even said that he was shocked I had such good control over the vehicle for still needing a significant amount of hours to get my license. But I digress, it was still annoying.)

“If anything, I lost confidence in my driving because the instructor was kind of aggressive even though I’m a good driver,” Lamb says. “My instructor told me to do a bunch of stuff I told her I hadn’t done before, and then yelled at me for doing it wrong.”

“One of the actual driving sessions was enjoyable. Everything else was boring and tedious,” comments Lara. “It really depends on the instructor. My first one was fine and only spent time talking to me about personal stuff including his divorce. The second one was super strict and wouldn’t let me go over the speed limit. The third one barely said a word.”

Another element of driving school is the price. For something that is a requirement for getting your license, it’s oftentimes extremely expensive. My sister had found one of the cheaper driving schools for me to attend in this area, but even that was close to $300. When getting a car to drive is already an expensive endeavor, the process of being able to drive it in the first place isn’t very accessible for people with low-incomes.

It is possible to get around in this area without having your license, but considering the convenience of having your own license, I think it’s ridiculous that driving school is a requirement. There are just going to be bad drivers on the road regardless—I know plenty of bad drivers who passed driving school just fine. Is a lot of what I mentioned simply annoying because I’m a good driver who looks into the rules of the road, for my safety and other’s safety, which causes driving school to be repetitive and unuseful? Yes. Does it actually help the people who need it? Probably not.

“The only way to become a good driver is through practice,” Lamb says. “So it really depends on how your parents teach you.”

“It depends on which school you did, but ultimately if you want to be a safe driver, you will be,” Clark states. “Driving school won’t do much.”

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