CPS Driver’s Education course gives confidence to new drivers


Nicole Schroeder

When senior Phoebe Boeschen first began learning to drive, it was not necessarily effortless from the beginning. Driving her parents’ Prius in her neighborhood and the State Farm parking lot, it took a little while before she truly felt comfortable driving on busy roads and on highways. Even then, she preferred her dad’s instruction over her mom’s as she prepared for the driver’s test.
“My dad is more calm about everything and won’t really freak out if I make a mistake like my mom would,” Boeschen said. “[He] first took me to State Farm to practice driving around with no traffic. Then we progressed into more of my neighborhood, then we went around town, then eventually he took me on the highway.”
Of course, Boeschen at one point drove with her mother in the car as well, though Boeschen said the experience was much more stressful for both her and her mom than the driving lessons she went on with her dad.
“I remember the one time my mom took me to drive. She told me to turn. I was doing exactly as she said. I guess I  wasn’t turning the steering wheel enough and  so she kept yelling, ‘Turn, Turn, Turn,’” Boeschen said. “ As I did I ended up hitting the curb and scratching the side of the car. I guess I ended up turning too much. That was the last time my mom took me driving before I got my license.”
Boeschen said her parents taught her to drive because there was no driver’s education class offered through Columbia Public Schools and she believed her parents were experienced enough to teach her. Many students don’t realize, however, that CPS began offering driver’s ed courses during the summer in 2013 after many years of no such instruction.
Although he teaches during the regular school year at Jefferson Middle School, seventh grade English teacher John Clowe was one of four teachers to direct the driver’s ed course offered over the summer last year at RBHS. He said the program gave many students much-needed practice and confidence behind the wheel.
“Each student in the class who showed enough skill and confidence gets valuable time behind the wheel. Not much prepares you better for the drivers’ test than practice,” Clowe said. “Students in drivers’ education get experience behind the wheel and they get experience riding with other student drivers. That can be scary, and students learn a lot when observing other student drivers driving.”
While he still hasn’t yet tested for his driver’s license, junior Shray Kumar took the driver’s ed course last year and said it helped him gain confidence about learning to drive. He said the class was very thorough and explained many different aspects of driving.
“We learned everything about driving. In the class we learned the parts of a car, and how to react in every single driving procedure possible. It definitely prepared you for anything that could happen to you while driving,” Kumar said. “While in the car, we learned how to drive. You would start off in a parking lot, and eventually drive in the highway if you were good enough.”
Even if a driver’s ed course like those offered at CPS is helpful, however, Clowe said he doesn’t believe they are absolutely necessary for learning to drive well.
“I do not believe all students need to take a course on driving if their parents prepare them appropriately. I think some parents are not confident about teaching their children to drive,” Clowe said. “It can be an overwhelming experience. I do think that every student who took the class last summer developed skills for driving, and perhaps more importantly, developed an understanding of the risks and responsibilities of driving.”Whether learning to drive from parents or a driver’s ed course, Boeschen said practice is the key to passing the driver’s license test and mastering the skill of driving. The testament is in her routine; while she used to struggle with maneuvering the car and navigating roads around town, Boeschen now drives herself to school every day.
“[When I was still learning to drive,] I drove whenever my family wasn’t in a hurry to get somewhere,” Boeschen said. “I started to practice about four months before the test which is not smart. Start as early as you can, it will help you get used to the feeling of driving faster.”“Students in drivers’ education get experience behind the wheel and they get experience riding with other student drivers. That can be scary, and students learn a lot when observing other student drivers driving.” — John Clowe, CPS Driver’s Education teacherFurthermore, Kumar said it is important to find a teacher who is patient and will not make the student anxious or nervous to be behind the wheel. One of the benefits to the driver’s ed class offered at RBHS, he said, was the teachers’ ability to instruct the student learning to drive and still maintain their composure.
“It’s always nice to have someone that knows what they’re talking about guiding you through the process. When I was driving, the instructor’s voice was always so calm, and the way he spoke made it sound like every event that occurred while driving was orchestrated by him,” Kumar said. “It made me calm and happy since I had someone who could pinpoint my issues and answer any question I had.”
Whether a student learns to drive with his or her parents or in a driver’s ed course, Clowe said the most important aspect of driving is simply understanding how to do it safely and responsibly.
“For most of us in today’s society, driving is the most dangerous thing we do on a regular basis. Cars are expensive. Insurance is expensive. Being involved in an accident is expensive,” Clowe said. “Learning how to drive is important because driving a vehicle can have serious consequences. Having a good learning experience puts drivers on a road that hopefully leads to a lifetime of driving safely.”
By Nicole Schroeder
photo by Devesh Kumar