Driving school sends students in right direction


Akira Copeland

Beacon Hill Driving School offers parents peace of mind and students a chance to learn to drive without the pressure of parental eyes watching. Their teen driving program costs $480.

Molly House, Staff Reporter

Most parents would argue that teaching teenagers how to drive is one of the most stress-inducing rites of passage any mother or father could ever face. But as families find themselves more and more busy, teaching their teen-aged children to drive has become a necessity. The solution? Driving school. For a mere $400-$500, parents can avoid a hair-raising experience of teaching their kids how to parallel park or drive on the freeway.

May Wong is a driving instructor at Beacon Hill Driving School, a family-run business just up the street from Cleveland on 15th Avenue. The CHS alum started teaching driving classes to help out her dad and the business, but has since found she enjoys it more than she initially thought she would.

“It’s very rewarding when somebody just starts learning how to drive,” Wong said. “When they go from zero to where they can navigate safely.”

Wong has been driving with teens for so long, she can anticipate dangerous situations before they happen. She pushes students to get out of their comfort zones and challenge themselves behind the wheel.

Akira Copeland
May Wong runs Beacon Hill Driving School, a family-owned business near Cleveland. Wong is a CHS alumni.

“I feel like I want to prepare them on the road, so that when they’re out there on the street they know how to handle any situation,” Wong said.

While most teenagers want to rush the experience of learning to drive, many can’t fully see the long, expensive road ahead of them. Car insurance for teens can be costly, not to mention gas and vehicle maintenance. Most driving schools charges upwards of $350 for lessons.

Junior Jessica Truong went to First Pass Driving School in Skyway. Along with location and proximity to their homes, cost was a big factor for picking a driving school. Truong described First Pass as “the cheapest driving school around Seattle.” While the school offered structure, Truong didn’t find it boring.

“The instructors were pretty chill and funny,” she said.
For many families, it can be hard to organize rides and pickups for after-school activities. Getting to and from school can be difficult with the school bus boundaries and the unreliable Metro stops.

Truong had to start learning to drive after her sister, who provided her with rides to school, graduated last year. She’s now responsible for driving her brother to school.
“It is a struggle for transportation for our family right now,” Truong said.

But now that she can drive, Truong drives herself home instead of waiting for her parents pick her up.

Deadly distractions
Having bad or scary experiences on the road can sometimes deter teenagers from driving. In driving school, students are taught how to navigate without becoming distracted by their cellphones. Now, with stricter laws surrounding phone usage while driving, Wong must inform her students about the dangers of “sending a quick Snap” while behind the wheel. She believes students are getting the message.

“I think that teens are pretty good [about not using their phones],” Wong said. “The teens are very smart; smarter than their parents.”

Texting and holding a phone to your ear is already illegal, but Washington state now forbids handheld uses, including composing or reading any kind of message, picture or data. Taking photos while driving is illegal. Drivers also cannot use hand-held devices while at a stop sign or red-light, but they can use a phone that is mounted on the dashboard. It must be used for navigation apps, not to watch videos. Hands-free calling is still legal.

The penalties for breaking these laws are steep. The standard traffic fine of $136 would nearly double to $235 on the second distracted-driving citation.

Truong has witnessed first-hand the dangers of distracted driving. Last year, while on her way to school, Truong was a passenger in a head-on collision. Although she doesn’t remember seeing the car coming, she can still hear her sister’s screams in her head. Her younger brother was also in the car.

“I blacked out for a little bit,” Truong said. “I was just on my phone, and then out of nowhere I just heard this loud bang.”

The police report showed the other driver was on his phone. This has motivated Truong to follow the new laws.

“That’s how crashes happen; how people die,” said Truong.
Like a baby learning to walk, driving also takes practice. Wong offers this advice to her students as a goodbye at the end of the class:

“Driving is a continuous learning process; the more you drive the better you get.”