With area schools back in session, many students at the high school level are driving themselves to class for the very first time.
It can be tricky navigating congested school zones even as an experienced driver, and if you've only had your license for a few months, the task can be even more daunting.
Boylan High School junior Michaela Johnson is less than a month away from earning her drivers license. "I'm really excited to start driving because I'm just kind of ready to be independent and not having to worry about asking my mom 'Oh can you take me here, can you take me there,'" she says.
With just two behind-the-wheel sessions left, she'll be driving herself to school in no time. When she finally does, she'll face some new challenges before even leaving the parking lot.
"the school parking lot can get kind of crazy so you always have to be paying attention," says Johnson.
Drive Right driving school owner Barry Molencupp helped nearly 400 high schoolers earn their license this summer. He says the first day students drive themselves to school can be exciting, but with a parking lot full of new drivers, peer pressure can tempt students to take dangerous risks.
"Because you'll have kids that you'll know, kind of drive too fast, peel out and take chances and things like that," says Molencupp.
At Winnebago High School, a new system was put in place at the start of this school year to try an curb these types of behaviors. At the end of each day, administrators take to the streets to direct the flow of traffic. They're also looking for student drivers who are unbuckled, traveling with too many passengers, or are talking on their cell phones.
In Illinois, a new driver is only allowed to drive with one passenger who is not a family member for one year after earning their license. Winnebago High School Students risk loosing their parking passes if they are caught breaking these rules multiple times.
"So it's really helped with that process and providing adult oversight to make sure our students are safe," says Winnebago CUSD 323 Superintendent Scott Bloomquist.
Molencupp offers some advice to students wishing to avoid the rush of cars leaving at the end of the day, "Stay after 10 minutes, let the parking lot clear, and then you can just take your time."
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