Virtually Licensed To Drive

Katie Maier

“I was happy that I didn’t have to [take the road test],” Riley reflects, “but I knew that if I didn't have to take the test, nobody else had to take it either. That’s pretty intimidating.”



In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, nothing really comes easy. Except getting a driver’s license. 

On April 23rd, the state of Georgia announced that any resident who has had his or her class CP permit for at least one year and one day would have the opportunity to obtain his or her class D license...online. 

Sophomore Riley Mackinson learned about this opportunity through her mom, who saw another parent’s Facebook post about how her daughter had obtained her license virtually. The following night, Riley sat down at her computer, made an account with dds.ga.gov, and vowed to the government that she had completed the required instructional programs and forty hours of driving. A week later, Riley’s driver’s license arrived in the mail. 

“I was happy that I didn’t have to [take the road test],” Riley reflects, “but I knew that if I didn't have to take the test, nobody else had to take it either. That’s pretty intimidating.”

The change in law that allowed Riley to avoid the stress of an in-person test also gave that same opportunity to thousands of teenagers across the state, meaning there are thousands of newly licensed drivers who may not be all that great at driving. 

“I understand the logic [of the rule change],” says sophomore Joey Boveri, “but it’s scary to think that people that would normally take the test four times before getting their license are now going to be out on the highways with everybody.”

Joey acquired his license several months ago, back when the standard was to go to the actual Department of Driver Services to anxiously drive around and parallel park for a grade. Somewhat nostalgically, Joey reflected on the “old” way of earning this right: “You take your driving test, and you pass or fail. And that’s that.”

This certainly is the way that it used to be before the country went on lockdown, and it likely will be that way once the country resumes. For now, eligible teenagers are racing to obtain their licenses before the road test waiver goes out of effect. Meanwhile, others are frustrated at the fact that they will not qualify for their license in time to avoid the test. ‘

Kiley Jones will have had her permit for one year and one day at the end of May. By the time she is eligible for her license, the road test requirement will likely have been put back into place. 

“I’m a little upset,” she says, “because that would make my life so much easier. I have a couple of friends who got their licenses online. They bypassed a ton of the stress.”

Not only will Kiley have to go through the hassle of the road test, but she’ll also become a new driver on the same roads as many not-so-experienced drivers. Perhaps that is a lose-lose situation. But on the other hand, she’ll face the same, traditional rite of passage that decades of American drivers have faced. 

“It’s really an experience, getting your license the normal way,” Joey says. “It’s something memorable. I think it’s a moment that you’ll remember for a long time in your life, that moment you got your driver’s license.”

Of course, as we have seen over the last couple of months, many traditions have no choice but to change in the face of the present circumstances. Filling out an online form is certainly not the experience that many teenagers expected when they envisioned getting their driver’s license. Nonetheless, this opportunity is certainly a rare one, and the uniqueness of this virtual rite of passage is undoubtedly an experience in and of itself. 
 
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