Wheels Up: WHS students navigate drivers-ed through COVID-19

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Credit: Olivia Tawakol

For many high school students trying to get their permit or license, the pandemic has made the process a lot harder. Due to the transition to a more online format, students’ steps to accomplish to get their permit seem more complicated than usual. “It was just way more confusing and the instructions weren’t that clear,” sophomore Sarah Foley. “I’m pretty sure some of the RMVs had less hours, so you had to change your schedule to go. I just wish there were more hours available for appointments on the weekend so I could have [been able to] apply earlier.”

When COVID-19 first hit the U.S. in March 2020, students already in the process of getting their permit or license experienced delays in obtaining them. Now that the entire process has transitioned to a primarily digital model, it looks a lot different then in previous years. For students beginning to learn how to drive this year, the steps needed to take to get their permits may seem confusing.

With driver’s education and permit tests now completely online, students have had different experiences with the whole process of getting their permits.

“It was confusing because I had to keep asking my sister what the process was, but it wasn’t helpful since it’s different now because of COVID, so I had to keep asking my friends who already got their permits,” sophomore Sarah Foley said. “I didn’t know what I needed to get to apply for a permit and what documents I had to bring.”

Students now have to navigate online to get their permit, and finding RMV test appointments is difficult. On the other hand, the new take-at-home permit tests are more convenient for some students.

“I thought the process was easier because you got to take the [test] at home, and it was less stressful than going to the RMV and taking it there,” sophomore Helen Lin said. “[I’ve heard] it is a long process going to the RMV, and [anyone going] had to make an appointment to go in which took a while.”

Some students that already began to learn how to drive before COVID-19 have had an easier time finishing up the last steps needed to get their permit or license. For junior Alexa Neuman, the pandemic didn’t affect or delay anything significantly.

“It was pretty easy—my permit test was before COVID so I just had to go in, take the permit test and then leave,” Neuman said. “It was [simple] and there was no line. For me, it was easy to schedule my license test, but I know for other people it took a bunch of weeks after their last driving lesson to get the test.”

Driver’s ed is a time consuming class for students. High schoolers would typically go in person around eight hours each day for a total of five days at their driving school. However, now that instructors teach over Zoom, the classroom looks very different.

“I think the biggest difference [in the process] was driver’s ed being online because it’s harder to focus and actually learn things,” Lin said. “You have [many] distractions. I feel I would’ve learned more in person because I would focus.”

Some students wonder if they could learn more effectively if driver’s ed was in-person, compared to the online format that it’s currently in due to the pandemic.

“I probably enjoyed it more on Zoom because I could eat snacks, and also my teacher would let us out early, so I guess it was better to be at home,” Foley said. “But I was zoning out the whole time, so if I were in person it would probably be more entertaining.”