Easing Off the Breaks With Drivers’ Ed.

The+future+of+traditional+driver%27s+ed.+hangs+in+the+balance+during+the+pandemic+as+students+eagerly+await+their+turn+to+get+behind+the+wheel.+

Photo by Creative commons

The future of traditional driver's ed. hangs in the balance during the pandemic as students eagerly await their turn to get behind the wheel.

One of the most thrilling aspects of being an upperclassman in high school is learning how to drive.  This is the key step to obtaining that prized permit, and then every parent’s fear: the license.  However, fearful parents have been given a temporary blessing in this department, as Drivers’ Education courses have continued to be cancelled. 

This announcement was made in March when the COVID-19 breakout first began.  Due to the close quarters of an enclosed vehicle and the cancellation of in-person school for the final months of the 2019-2020 school year, there was no feasible way to continue Drivers’ Ed. or start new sessions.  So, for months, students who need to take these courses have grown frustrated. 

Being a 16-17 year old in a community with minimal public transportation, while also in a pandemic, can prove to be challenging.  The ability to get into a car and go anywhere seemed like the perfect escape during these months for many. 

Patchogue-Medford High School senior, Kaitlyn Sayers, explains, “due to the wait I won’t be able to drive myself to school until I get the chance to actually take drivers’ ed so it makes it difficult for my family to work their schedules around mine .”

So, a surprising, updated plan from the state of New York on the matter may alleviate the impatience that has developed.  Joel Geller of the Driver Education Program recently stated in an interview with News 12 Long Island, “As I understand it, the in-classroom portion which is a total of 24 hours, will now be allowed to be done virtually and the driving part, which is also a total of 24 hours, can be done by their parents or guardian. Anybody with a valid driver’s license.” 

The most shocking part of this plan is the essentially self-guided driving portion, that will be done without the supervision of an official driving school.  Students who already have taken Drivers’ Education courses utilized the driving time they were allotted to be completely prepared for their road test and experiences on the road.  For instance, Patchogue-Medford High School senior, Savina Chan, claims, “Having the opportunity to take drivers’ ed courses with a licensed professional has granted me confidence in my driving skills and habits. From learning the rules of the road to defensive driving habits, I feel more vigilant and equipped to encounter anything on the road.”

The idea that parents can lie about how long they have taken their child driving is not only harming their potential in a road test, but puts all drivers at risk of an underprepared driver.  As far as Patchogue-Medford High School is concerned, the community is still awaiting specific plans, but many private organizations are already starting to offer programs, so the wait should not be too much longer.  Once guidance is clearer from the state, teens will be getting behind a wheel, with a parent beside them, and in front of their computers, to achieve that teenage dream of independently driving.