It may not seem like a big deal to anyone who has one, but to St. Louis area teenagers turning 15, getting a driver’s license offers a new kind of freedom. For Marni Frischer, a freshman at Parkway Central High School, this rite of passage has arrived. She is on the road to getting her license.
“My birthday was last August,” Marni said. “And I need to have my permit by February to get my license on time. The sooner I get it, the better.”
For Marni and her peers to get their licenses, they will undergo a long process to improve their skills. The Missouri Department of Revenue (DOR), which is responsible for license offices, has a series of tests that are required to help ensure safety on the road. Teens have to pass a vision test, a road signs exam and a written knowledge test before getting a permit.
In order to study for these tests, the DOR provides a Missouri Driver Guide (dor.mo.gov/forms/Driver_Guide.pdf). Another way to prepare is to go to the private dmv.org website and take a practice permit test.
At age 16, after at least six months of driving on a permit accompanied by a licensed driver over the age of 25, teens can take a road test. They have up to three tries to pass the test; if they fail for the third time, they will need additional instruction.
Marni worries that while her license will provide her with more independence, it will also mean taking on greater responsibility. Over the past few months, she has witnessed multiple accidents on the highway. That has got her thinking about what she would do in a similar situation.
“I don’t want to hurt myself,” Marni said. “And I don’t want to hurt others.” However, as a driving beginner, she still has time to learn and progress before she takes her driver’s test.
Ethan Guller, a junior at Parkway Central, understands Marni’s situation and wants to share his experience with her and other new drivers.
“You should definitely drive anywhere you go, you’re going to need a lot of practice,” he said. “If there is one piece of advice I’d give to a new driver, it’s that practice is golden. I wish I would have practiced more before I got my license.”
As much as young drivers may worry, chances are their parents are much more concerned. Marni’s mother, Helene Frischer, is worried about putting her child behind the wheel for the first time.
“I worry about her getting hurt,” she said. “And I worry that she will be upset if an accident were to occur.”
For teens involved in accidents, it can be difficult to get back on the road. And accidents are fairly common among new drivers.
“In their first year on the road, teens are almost 10 times more likely to be in a crash,” State Farm Insurance says on its Teen Driver Safety website.
However, as teenagers get older and become more comfortable in their vehicles, the risk of accidents decreases.
Jane McKelvy, a senior at John Burroughs School, is one of many teens who has experienced a car crash within their first year of driving. No one was hurt, but she still thinks about the experience with resolve to stay safe on the road.“Everything was OK, but it was a frightening experience nonetheless,” Jane said. “I just should have been more careful, but being in an accident has made me especially cautious and aware when I drive now.”
As long as teens try their best to focus and be safe, while understanding that mistakes happen, they can experience the benefits of driving. After getting experience and practice, someone who has always been driven around by parents will have more freedom than they’ll know what to do with. They’ll be driving to school events, a friends house, or even to a job.
“Driving is very helpful,” said Ethan. “It makes you very self-sufficient.”