I Want to Drive Like a French Teenager

America’s vehicular imagination is too limited

George Dillard
6 min readJun 10, 2024
A Citroen Ami; Photo by John K (CC 4.0)

The school I work at occasionally hosts kids from France and Spain as part of a language-exchange program. The most recent group was fascinated with our American school buses. Some of the students said that they couldn’t believe that American kids actually rode to school in them.

While most Americans don’t pay any attention to the bright-yellow behemoths lumbering around our neighborhoods, it seems that people in other countries see the yellow busses as a quintessentially American thing, probably because they show up in TV and movies all the time. Just as Americans might gawk at a British double-decker bus in slight disbelief that it is a regular form of transportation, these French kids were obsessed with our school buses.

This prompted a conversation about how the French kids get to school. It was no surprise that more of them walked, biked, or took public transportation than the American kids I teach (who all ride in either a school bus or a car). It was also not a surprise that some of the wealthier French teens drove themselves to school. But I was fascinated by what they drove.

In France, they told me, you can’t get a driver’s license until you are 18 (although it seems the government is in the process of lowering the…