Aspiring teen drivers hit road bumps

A+teenager+sits+with+their+hands+on+the+steering+wheel+of+their+car.

Charlotte Gordon

A teenager sits with their hands on the steering wheel of their car.

Obtaining a driver’s license has proved to be a difficult task, particularly for teenagers in California. COVID-19 has only exacerbated these challenges by providing extra barriers. 

In California, teenagers ages 15 1/2 to 18 must complete 30 hours of online instruction before taking their permit test. Once they pass the permit test, they must have three driving lessons with a certified driving instructor prior to being allowed to drive with a parent in the car. Students need to have their permit for six months and accumulate 50 driving hours before being eligible to take their license test.

Since it was challenging for teenagers to take their permit tests during the peak of COVID-19, there is now an influx of students looking for driving instructors. 

“Because of COVID-19, a lot of people couldn’t get their permits in time. They couldn’t go to the DMV, so now there’s a high demand, even for 16 and 17-year-olds who are well past eligibility to get their license,” junior Katelin Kwan said. 

Senior Haley Chen’s driving education was disrupted in a different way.

“Because of COVID-19, my parents didn’t want me to take lessons with an instructor in a car together for two hours. I got my permit before I turned 16 but didn’t start driving lessons until four or five months later,” Chen said.

Despite getting his permit last month, sophomore Zachary Chuang is still waiting to get behind the wheel. 

“I haven’t been able to drive at all since I haven’t been able to do my first lesson,” Chuang said. 

Sophomore Lanie Mann also experienced this when she tried to schedule a driving instructor.

“Everything was booked, and the first appointment I could get was three months out,” Mann said. 

COVID-19 had pent up demand, and now that people are feeling more comfortable, more people are trying to do everything at once, which is pushing everything back.”

— Evan Mironov

Evan Mironov, a driving instructor and the owner of Strive Driving School, has experienced these challenges on the backend.

“Historically, September has been the least busy month of the year. But this year, we’ve been sitting at about two months booked out for a while now,” Mironov said.

While a new phenomenon, Mironov attributes this influx of student drivers to the pandemic. Teenagers had fewer places to go over the past year and a half, as school, clubs, and other extracurricular activities all met virtually, giving them less motivation to pursue a license. 

 “COVID-19 had that pent-up demand, and now that people are feeling more comfortable, more people are trying to do everything at once, which is pushing everything back,” Mironov said.

Getting a driver’s license is a milestone that many look forward to for a long time; unfortunately, many teenagers will have to wait a little longer with the current situation.

 “I’m not expecting it to slow down until the end of next summer,” Mironov said.