You've reached that magical age. Not 9 and 3/4, but 15 and 3/4. It's a time of fun and a time of growing up. And at long last, it's time to learn how to drive! The sooner you get started, the sooner you can stop sitting next to Mom and Dad everywhere you go. Here's why having a learners permit makes you cool:

1. It's the First Step to Obtaining a Maryland Driver License

Your freedom awaits! If you're at least 15 years and 9 months old, you can apply for a Maryland learners permit. You'll soon be on your way to picking up friends to go to the movies, driving yourself to school and back and going shopping all on your own. It's a huge step toward independence!

2. It Gives You a Taste of the Real World

After you graduate high school and college, you won't get very far without having multiple forms of identification. Before you can apply for a Maryland learners permit, you'll need to prove your age, identity and Maryland residence. First, bring either/or:

  • A valid, up-to-date passport
  • A certified copy of your birth certificate

You'll also need one of the following documents:

  • Your social security card
  • A W-2 less than 18 months old
  • A pay stub less than 3 months old

If you're under 16, you'll also need to sign and have your school submit form DL-300 to further verify your identity and confirm that you're attending school.

Next, your parent or guardian will have to verify your Maryland residence. If you're under 18, they'll also have to sign your permission form.

Finally, you'll have to fork over a $50 application fee. Welcome to the real world!

3. It Gives You a Chance to Show Your Stuff

You've gone to school long enough to know what comes next. After you pass the vision test, you'll have to pass a written knowledge exam. The test may grill you on the meanings of various road signs, what to do in certain traffic situations and other on-the-road essentials. If you live in the Baltimore metro area, consider taking a class at Elite Driving School to prep for the exam.

4. You Can Get Behind the Wheel

Once you get your permit, you're ready to go on the road with a licensed driver. Before you can apply for a provisional license, you have to complete a Drivers Education course and at least 60 hours of supervised practice driving. As you get more comfortable around local streets, try to tackle driving at night, in rainy weather and especially on the highway. It might be scary at first, but the experience is invaluable.

5. You Can Apply for a Provisional Drivers License

You're ready for the big time! No more riding the bus to school and back. Your friends will be impressed. Prom night awaits. After you turn in your permit and driving log, you'll take the driving skills test. Take a deep breath, stay composed and apply what you've learned. You can do it!

There you have it! With a learners permit, you might not be too cool for school, but you'll be on your way to going new places and doing new things. But remember, all great achievements take practice and commitment.