Learning to Drive: Advice from West’s Experienced Drivers

In which experienced drivers at West share their stories, info, and advice about learning to drive.

Rian Stallbaumer, Writer, Photographer

Sophomore Jenna Koosed prepares to drive home from school in her Honda CRV.

Driving: the skill all high school students are faced with the pressure of learning. There comes a time freshman or sophomore year when we decide that we don’t want mom or dad driving us around anymore. Read on for advice from experienced drivers here at West: stories about learning to drive, driver’s ed, getting a car, and more.

First of all, let’s establish the route (pun intended) you can take to getting your license:

At age 14: You can get your permit. To get your permit, you have to take a 25-question test based on information from the Kansas State Driver’s License Handbook and get at least an 80%. (You can miss up to 5 questions). You need to have your permit for at least one year before getting a higher license. When you have your permit, it’s time to hit the parking lots with mom, dad, or another experienced driver (who is at least 21 years old).

The best places to practice:

-Corporate Woods at College and Antioch. Here, there are a dozen empty parking lots and roads on weekends.

-Any other empty parking lot. The bigger, the better.

When you are ready to hit the real roads, I suggest driving on a Sunday evening. Traffic will generally be quieter later in the evening, and especially on Sundays. Don’t try to drive down a busy street at rush hour if you don’t feel like you’re ready.

“Take your car to an empty parking lot when it snows so you can see how your car handles the snow.”- Lindsey Smith, Senior

At age 15: This is the earliest age you can get a restricted license: you can drive by yourself to school and to work, only between the hours of 5 am and 9pm. Many younger students who are driving here at West only have a restricted license. To get your restricted, you have to have a certain number of logged hours (which depends on whether you have taken Driver’s Ed or not).


Many students are eager and prepared to drive, while others struggle with the pressure of starting to drive.

Driver’s Ed:

Driver’s Ed includes several learning activities including a full day of learning in a classroom, and multiple sessions in an automatic car provided for you with a Driver’s Ed instructor. But, there are both pros and cons– pros being that you may feel more educated and comfortable driving, that you will have cheaper car insurance, and it will be easier to acquire a restricted license– and the main con being the high price.

If it’s in your budget, consider taking Driver’s Ed. But if your parents are convinced they can teach you on their own– go ahead and let them try!

“Advice regarding driver’s ed—take it early so you can participate in more activities and events, and take it with a friend so it’s bearable.”  

-Renny Ma, Junior   

After earning a restricted license, a less restricted license can be acquired a certain amount of time after you receive your restricted. This less restricted license includes more freedom with late night driving and the number of people you can have in your car.

At age 16: You can have your full license if you have completed a certain number of hours and other requirements, but it is totally fine if you only have your restricted- or even your permit. You still have plenty of time!

At age 17: You can have your full license. If you only have a permit at the age of 17, you don’t need to bother with restricted licenses: you can simply take the driver’s test at the DMV and jump straight to your full license.

“I got my permit when I was 14, but I didn’t start driving for almost a year after I got it.  When I turned 16, I got my less-restricted license.  The only restrictions were I could drive anywhere as long as I had no more than one non family member in the car, and only within certain hours.  Upon having my half birthday, those restrictions dropped off and I had a full license!” -JoLynn Smith, Junior


Manual cars are significantly more complicated to drive than automatic cars. In automatic cars, the driver only has two pedals: the brake, and the gas, both needed to start and stop the car. Manuals, also called stick-shifts, have three pedals: the clutch, the gas, and the break. There is also a “stick” in the center console of the car in which drivers must shift into 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, and sometimes even 6th gear.

Not only here at West, but everywhere else in the world, automatic cars are much more common than manuals. I interviewed students who drive manual cars here at West to catch a glimpse of what it’s like.

“I started learning to drive the summer after freshman year and it took me until the middle of this year to be able to drive stick.” 

-Erin Fast, Junior

Erin Fast poses with her 4-gear stick-shift.

 “I got my car last September. Since I didn’t know how to drive a manual when I got my car, my older brother taught me. He took me to parking lots and I practiced starting and stopping. It took me about two weeks to learn. Driving a stick has given me a greater appreciation for driving. I don’t like driving automatics as much because there’s not as much to do. When I occasionally do drive an automatic, I’m not as cautious because I don’t have to worry about shifting.” -Jenna Koosed, Sophomore

 “It took me all summer to learn how to drive a stick.”  -Hannah Heaton, Junior

Automatic cars are much more common, and easier to learn.

 “I admire everyone who drives a stick…but I’m thankful for my automatic.” -JoLynn Smith, Junior

“My brother taught me to drive in SMP with one of his friends. Before they let me drive, they decided to drive in reverse for a while and I thought I was going to die.”

– Sydney Suttles, Senior

It’s okay to make mistakes while you’re learning. That is part of the learning process. Everybody who can drive had to go through it at some point!

“At the beginning of sophomore year, I was pulling into my garage, and I got the gas and the brake confused, so I accidentally floored the gas into my house.” -Renny Ma, Junior

“I’m better at driving backwards than forwards”- Maddie Loe, Senior

After all of this trouble about learning how to drive, don’t forget what it’s all really for. Driving not only allows you to get yourself to and from school, but it gives you the freedom to directly go anywhere you want, by yourself. Be sure to enjoy yourself and stay safe on the roads!

“I think the best part about being able to drive is having more freedom.”

-Renny Ma, Junior