The Student News Site of Menlo School

The Coat of Arms

The Student News Site of Menlo School

The Coat of Arms

The Student News Site of Menlo School

The Coat of Arms

Young Drivers Take a Wrong Turn: Upperclassmen Reveal Regrets Over Their Driver’s License Journeys

Staff illustration: Amber More

The number of teenagers with driver’s licenses has declined over the last several decades. According to a study conducted by the U.S. Department of Transportation, in 2021, only 59.7% of 18-year-olds in the United States had their driver’s license compared to 80.4% in 1983. 

There are a variety of reasons for the declining rate of teen drivers. Menlo parent Molly Kossow, mother of senior Ben and sophomore Katie, believes technology has changed the sense of urgency for teens to drive, as it’s much easier for them to connect with one another. “Today’s teenagers are connected to each other throughout the day,” she wrote in an email to The Coat of Arms. “If they want to see their friends, it’s as simple as picking up the phone and FaceTiming or Snapping them.”

Kossow also thinks that rideshare services have had a profound impact on this generation of teenagers. “Uber allows greater mobility and independence for teens,” she said. “If parents aren’t able to drive them, another driver is always available.”

For junior Saniya Ahmed, the process of getting her driver’s license has been quite an emotional journey. Ahmed finished California’s required Driver’s Ed course before her 16th birthday in August of 2022 and was ecstatic about the idea of getting her license. 

Unfortunately, she failed her first attempt at the driver’s permit test, which delayed her opportunity to get her license. Ahmed explained that she was less motivated to get her license once school got busy, causing her to postpone her second attempt at the permit test. 

After a year passed, Ahmed’s Driver’s Ed certificate expired and she had to redo the course after her sophomore year. She recently passed her permit test in late August of 2023. “The process [to get your driver’s license] is very grueling,” Ahmed said. “All of the stuff you have to do is really annoying and takes so much time.”

Ahmed was able to have friends and family drive her, but says the social impacts of not having a license pressured her slightly. “It started getting embarrassing when everyone started getting their licenses,” she said. 

In reflection, Ahmed suggests students prioritize getting their licenses so they can be more independent. “When you can drive yourself, you don’t have to wait for other people to come and show up. You have your own authority to grab the keys and go,” Ahmed said.

Senior Julian Brooks has his permit and is working towards getting his license. During his first three years of high school, Brooks relied on his older sister, Jordan Brooks (‘23), for transportation. “I didn’t have that urge to get my license because I knew my sister could just take me to school and bring me home every day,” he said.

Brooks, who is on track to get his license in November — one month after he turns 17 — regrets not pursuing his license earlier on. “If you have the chance to get it, do it because it’s definitely worth it,” he said. 

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About the Contributor
Asher Darling
Asher Darling, News Editor

Number of years in The Coat of Arms: 2

Favorite aspect of journalism: The freedom to explore topics that interest me through my passion for writing and collaborating with the rest of the COA staff

Interests outside of school: Basketball, traveling, spending time with friends and family

Class of 2026

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