Driver’s ed amidst the pandemic

Jasmine Andrea, Junior Editor

Across the state, 15 ½-year-olds are taking on the DMV, struggling to get patched through and book an appointment months in advance in order to take the written test to earn their learner’s permit. 

Among the many requirements to hold a provisional license, teens under the age of 18 must have at least 6 hours of behind-the-wheel training with a licensed instructor. As Amador Valley Driving School closed down, the go-to driving school now for Pleasanton students is Coastline Academy.

“I’ve continued instructing throughout pretty much all of the pandemic, even the lockdowns. All of our cars have a clear plastic divider between the student and instructor, we wear masks, and we do a symptom and temperature check to make sure we’re being safe,” said Coastline Academy instructor Jim D.

Because driving instructors are counted as essential workers, they were, and still are, able to continue their work—even during the lockdown. They are more than safe, and they make time in between lessons just for sanitizing every part of the vehicle.

“I felt safe during my lessons and my instructor even had me pull into a parking lot halfway through our lesson to step outside and take a breather, away from each other without our masks,” said Paige Reynolds (‘23).

The most common lesson plan is to take three two-hour lessons in order to get all six hours required. Since two straight hours of driving is a long duration, it is smart to take a break, stretch, and catch a breath of fresh air.

“When I was done with all of my lessons done I was really grateful that driving schools stayed open so I could still get my license near my birthday,” said Reynolds.

Although Drivers Ed is essential, the DMV was forced to postpone numerous permit tests and even more behind-the-wheel tests while counties in California were in the purple tier and during the stay-at-home order. After the first lockdown, the DMV was backed up roughly 6-8 months to carry out the missed behind-the-wheel test appointments.

Thanks to the precautionary measures that driving schools are taking whilst the country is in a pandemic, the next generation of drivers is able to get on the streets safely with the instruction from a licensed professional.