Sophomores, upperclassmen discover ups and downs to driving


Amodhya Samarakoon

Upper school students walk towards their cars after school. “Most people, a good third [of our class], started taking [Driver’s Ed] classes freshman year. There were a couple stragglers that took it sophomore year,” senior Sarah Coleman said.

“I’ve seen trucks tipped over, cars spin out, but nothing has ever happened to me on the way to school,” senior Michael Wilkens said. Wilkens, among many other St. Paul Academy and Summit School students, drives himself and his siblings to school. While there are many enjoyable aspects of having that privilege, there are also challenges students have to face.

In Minnesota, the legal driving age is 16–the age most students approach in sophomore year. While some students get their license and begin driving themselves right away, others choose to hold off, sometimes indefinitely.

Sophomore Blaire Bemel has been driving herself to school since Sept. 6, the day after her 16th birthday. She enjoys the freedoms of being able to go out for food in the morning and never having to wait for her parents, but as it gets colder she doesn’t get the chance to sleep in as long. “I have to get up earlier to scrape ice off, but that’s okay,” Bemel said.

Unlike Bemel, Wilkens is accountable for his two younger sisters when he drives. “I still have a schedule that I have to keep track of,” Wilkens said. “Sometimes my sisters have to stay after school or get to school early and I don’t really have any control over that.” While Wilkens normally only has himself and his sisters in the car, he also tries to carpool whenever he can.

When Bemel first began driving herself to school, she said it helped her wake up in the morning. “The first week I was driving to school, I was so anxious and scared that by the time I actually got to school and was out of the car my adrenaline [level] would be really high,” Bemel said. “For the next hour or so I would be really hyper. It made me more awake in the morning.”

Driving appeals to everyone for different reasons, some big and some small. Whether it’s the freedom of self-reliance, the responsibility needed to operate an automobile, or just a love for cars, there is something special about being able to drive.