At 2:30 p.m., most high school parking lots are quiet, except for the rumble of the buses coming in to pick up students.
But minutes later, those parking lots come alive with yelling teens, the roar of car engines and blasts from horns as students make an impatient --awayfrom school.
A faculty monitor slows things down a little, but still doesn't deter the young drivers of Mustangs and Escorts and Camaros from hot-footing it down the road once they leave school property.
A kid andhis car go together like peanut butter and jelly and are equally inseparable once they're put together.
"It's very important. When you're a teen and you have a car, you have more freedom," said David Roe, 16, a South Carroll High junior.
Debbie Krebs, 17, of New Windsor, agrees.
"It's real important. You can go out on weekends, and you can have your freedom," said the SCHS senior.
The freedom a carbrings also is a big step toward independence from parents' apron strings.
"You don't have to ask your parents to drive you places," noted Eric Deitrich, 17, a junior at SCHS and son of Colleen and Rick Deitrich of Woodbine.
"You don't have to ask if you can go out because you have to have someone take you; you can just go," added David, son of Don and Kathy Roe of Woodbine.
"I'm so busy and going my separate way, it really helps a lot to have my own vehicle," said Jenell Rinehart, 17, a Francis Scott Key High senior who is involved in 4-H and school activities.
With both parents in a family often working, a car for teens is almost a necessity, students say.
"I drive every day because I play a sport every season," said Lisa Garland, 18, of Millers. "Both of my parents work, so when I have a practice or away game, I can drive myself home."
Mike Smith, a 17-year-old North Carroll High School senior, plays lacrosse, is in band and worksat the North Carroll Shopping Plaza as a maintenance man.
"(With a car) you don't have to wait around to be picked up, and your parents don't have to leave work or miss something to come and get you. My parents like it," said the son of Wilbur and Sharon Smith of Hampstead.
NCHS, with a dearth of parking spaces, recognizes that some students need to drive more than others. Parking permits are handed out with first priority going to students in extracurricular activities at school, second to those on work-release programs, third to others who work after school and fourth to those who just want to drive, saidguidance counselor Steve Guthrie.
At South Carroll, Liberty and Francis Scott Key high schools, any student with a license may apply for a permit to park on campus. Westminster High allows only juniors and seniors to drive to school.
"Driving (to school) is a privilege, it's not a right," said Guthrie. "Public transportation is available, and privileges can be revoked."
A teen may not need a chauffeuronce he has his own car, but there are restrictions at home as well as at school, as some have discovered.
"One thing I've found out is that you still need to ask permission (to go out)," said Heather Wiskeman, 16, a Westminster High School junior. "If you're on a provisional license, they need to know where you're going. Parents still want to know where you are. And you have certain times you can't drive."
Many consider a car a social necessity.
"They see their friends buying cars, and they think they have to have a car," said Heather,the daughter of Larry and Carol Wiskeman of Westminster. "Some people think they can do a lot more with a car.
"Socially, it's helpful," she said. "I meet my friends at the mall, I drive some of my friends to school and home, and we go to games and concerts."
Having a car is especially nice on a date, said David, "because you don't haveto have your parents along, which can really cramp a date."
He said some girls go out only with guys who have a car so they have someone to take them places.
"I think more boys use it as a status symbol," said Jenell, the daughter of John and Sharon Rinehart of Taneytown. "I like it for the convenience. It's always there for me."
While just having their own vehicle to drive is enough for some, what counts for others is the kind of car.
Mike drives a 1968 apple-red Mustang, a popular classic car that he describes as simply basic transportation.
Previously, though, he drove an old pickup.
"It doesn't matter what it is, as long as you have a set of wheels," noted Debbie, the daughter of Linda Miller.
However, she added, "It does matter when you go out because, otherwise, other kids will be embarrassed to be seen with you."
For Lisa, a NCHS senior and daughter of Butch and Linda Garland, the car is a necessity dictated by the sports she plays.
Her 1983 Chevy Citation "is no Porsche, but it gets me around," she said. "If I didn't play sports, I could ride the bus or get a friend to pick me up."
Her father works, her mother takes care of Heather's grandmother and Heather is involved in school activities.
Heather got her 1991 Ford Escort last November for her 16thbirthday.
"I love it," she said.