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High school is always a time of new things:  New subjects, new people, and new skills. One of the many exciting life changes of high school is driving. Even before you are able to get your learner’s permit at age 15, you can start taking drivers ed classes.

There are so many different driving schools in Chicago alone that it is easy to find a school that suits you. One key factor to finding a good school is when the classes are. Northwestern Driver Education has classes that take place Monday-Thursday for three straight weeks; these courses take place between late December and May. They also have a Sunday only program, which runs from early March to early June.

Compared to this program and many others, the program at ICJA is a better choice. It takes place after school on Wednesdays and on Sundays between early April and early June. Provided by Illinois Driving School, the program at school meets the classroom requirement time of 30 classroom hours and has driving time with instructors. It also has a very flexible schedule of available time to drive with instructors (who pick you up at your house and drop you off there) and takes place after school. The after school time should not interfere with any sports schedules, as the only in-school Spring sports do not practice during this time. Each class takes an hour and a half, and one of two classes per week will be a “movie day” (you watch driving movies not whatever you want).

Driver’s ed can seem daunting at first, but it is actually not so hard. You have to sit in class while a teacher discusses key elements of driving, watch a few movies about how NOT to drive, and study for the permit test. This test consists of 15 road signs that you have to know by name (think stop sign, railroad crossing, no u-turn, etc.), as well as several multiple choice questions that can be correctly answered with logic alone. After that, some schools make you take their own test to prove that you have passed and others (like the one offered at school) don’t. Once you have your permit, you are able to drive. The state requirement is that you have driven 50 hours with a licensed adult over 21, with at least 10 of those hours having been at night. Aside from driving with a parent, you can drive with another trusted adult, like a driving instructor. It is often best to begin learning with a driving instructor, since the instructor has his/her own brake to help you if needed. If you are 16, have had your permit for over nine months, and have completed the driving requirement, you are able to take the driving test and potentially get your very own driver’s license.

The other option, of course, is to wait until you turn 18 and just get your license then without taking driver’s ed. As any driver’s ed instructor will tell you, drivers ed is more than just an inconvenience; it teaches you skills and techniques that, despite their importance, will not be learned through driving alone. A true inconvenience of waiting would be the lack of independence that is achieved through driving. Sophomore Ruby Grant, the first in the grade to have a driver’s license, is very glad that she has her license because “I can go out whenever I want, and I would have definitely missed opportunities and chances if I didn’t have my license.” From my experience with drivers ed at ICJA, drivers ed is an exciting experience that teaches you valuable skills that you can and will likely use for the rest of your life.

This article was written by Jacob Felix for The Crown Prints newspaper. You can register for drivers’ ed at ICJA here.

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