What happened to Driver’s Ed?
When I was growing up in southern California in the 70s, there was one thing everyone looked forward to in high school: Driver’s Ed. This was the one class that was to lead to a teenager’s freedom and independence. Learning the rules of the road was more important than math or English and when it finally came time to get behind the wheel of the driver’s ed car, well, that was when adolescence ended and adulthood began.
Now I’m all grown up and have been driving for many years and have children of my own. I’m a single mom with three teenage daughters only about a year apart (yes, I went temporarily insane for a few years and ended up single with 3 kids-please sympathize with me). This alone has put a burden on my sanity and finances, but when I learned that the schools no longer have a driver’s education program, I was stunned. Then my ‘stunned’ became outright horror when I learned that I would have to foot the bill for an online driver’s course (to the tune of almost $60) and, here’s the real horror, a $320, 6-hour physical driving school. That’s a little over $53 an hour. Now, I’ve been teaching my daughters to drive since they were about 10 (in parking lots, not on the public roads), so they already know how to maneuver around traffic lanes and how to back-up, park within the lines and use the headlights and blinkers, so why do I have to pay $53 an hour for someone else to show them the exact same things? Nobody paid me $53 an hour.
Here’s why. The law says that each of my darling daughters must pass the online course ($60 x 3 =$180) and take the driving school lessons ($320 x 3 = $960) and get their permits ($27 x 3 = $81). This comes to a grand total of $1,221. For a hard-working single mom who struggles just to pay bills and put food on the table, that’s a heck of a lot of money.
But, as upset and disappointed as I am that the school’s can’t provide this service, and offer the same exciting experience with peers that I had, I can understand. If it costs hundreds of dollars per child, then imagine how much money the state is saving by making parents pay, not to mention driving the economy by giving business to these private schools. However, even though I understand, it still puts a huge burden on some parents like me. My kids have several friends who can’t get their permits because their parents can’t afford to pay for the necessary classes. For these kids, money from their summer jobs will have to be for taking the courses, rather than saving for a first car or even college.
We all know how expensive it is to drive, but this is just another burden placed on the young or the not-so-well off. Logically and fiscally, it makes sense, but emotionally, it’s a blow and takes away from that thrilling time of growing up. I’ve been trying to put aside money for my next two daughters so they can at least start driving when they’re able. I miss the idea of high school driver’s ed, sitting in the classroom with my classmates and taking turns at the wheel, but I comfort myself a bit by knowing that my kids will never miss the experience because they’ll never get the opportunity to miss what they’ve never known.