Opinion: Drivers ed courses should be offered at universities

By James Stein Oct15,2021
Image by Isabel Sperry
Image by Isabel Sperry

Turning fifteen is often an under-celebrated age for people, however in the state of Illinois, it is the age you can get your driving permit. With the permit, a good teacher and a lot of practice, people pass their driving tests to get their licenses. I am not one of those people, I am 19 years old and I still do not have my license. I took driver education classes through my high school, where it was provided for me for free as a low income student. Looking back, I wish I had saved up my money and taken out of school drivers education classes. This is why having a driver’s education class offered in college could be especially beneficial for other students like me. 

My high school driving instructor was, for a lack of better words, a grade A jerk. One distinct memory I have is of him requesting I make a left turn, I look ahead and the street is blocked off due to construction. I attempted to tell my instructor this, but he just talked over me, insisting I turn left. When he actually saw the blockage, all he said was “oh”. As an alternative, my dad had a work friend who also worked as a driving instructor, so he taught me later instead. He helped me become more comfortable driving, but unfortunately by the time I was ready and found time to take my driving test, COVID-19 had shut down the Department for Motor Vehicles (DMV). So I waited to try my hand again at driving, until this past summer.

With a bit of extra money, my parents paid for some driving lessons at a local driving school. I had finally gained back confidence and control over my driving anxiety when the worst thing possible happened: I was in a car accident while practicing with my dad. One minute, I was making a left turn, the next I was swerving to avoid getting hit. Regardless, an unseen oncoming car sped into me and hit my side door and wheel suspension, totaling the car. Although I was physically okay, I still am not mentally. I experience regular flashbacks and sometimes anxiety attacks due to the accident. I wish there was a class I could take to help me to learn how to drive post-accident, to help friends who have told me of their issues with post-accident driving anxiety. 

There should be a driver’s education class in college, it could have specialties, like how to gain back driving confidence post-accident and how to drive in harsh Illinois winters. There is a need for such a class, but I have never heard of one existing. Although it is not necessary to take a driver’s ed course if you are 21 years of age or older, I think it would be a great asset to the college curriculum. The class could easily be used to fill a general education credit, like the Contemporary Social Institutions (CSI) requirement at Illinois Wesleyan. The course catalogue says a CSI course would “ explore the established practices, relationships, and organizations which influence the daily lives of individuals in society”. In my mind, a driver’s education course would fit this description, driving influences everyone, whether they drive or not. Driving is built up to be an ultimate goal that is essential to life, unfortunately, for some it is not an easily attainable goal. However, a college driver’s education course would help people, people like me.

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