Students attempt to earn driver’s licenses during the pandemic

In-person driving lessons and tests adopt new safety protocols


Photo by Ben Olson

Lots of things have become tricky throughout the COVID-19 Pandemic, including getting your driver’s license! DMV customers must wait in a longer line because of social distancing guidelines, and appointments have to be made to attend.

Sophomore Tasha Singh faced the DMV with a look of surprise. 

The pandemic has completely changed the formerly crowded building. Caution tape separated the socially distanced individuals in the short lines. Three chairs in the waiting room were spread apart with several bottles of hand sanitizer dispersed across the room.

It didn’t take long for Singh to realize that trying to get a driver’s license or permit during the pandemic is a much different experience than before. 

“It was not what I expected based on other people’s experiences,” Singh said. “I heard it was super packed but there was a relatively small amount of people waiting when I went to take my permit test.”

Singh explained how now at the DMV, a limited number of people are allowed into the building and everyone is required to wear masks. Only the people who were either taking a test or had a task to complete were allowed inside while family members and guests had to wait outside. 

To be eligible to take the permit test, students under the age of 18 need to go through 30 hours of work in a driver’s education course. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, this course can only be taken online and not in person. After completing it, students need to sign up to take the permit test at the DMV. 

The test itself is taken on a computer and scores are received immediately.

 “It was definitely stressful because the computer would tell you whether you got a question right or wrong,” Singh said.

Depending on whether you passed or failed, the printed version of the permit would be given right after the test.

Along with the permit test, the driving test has also been impacted because of the new safety measures. 

Senior Ana Cabral said the DMV had taken several measures to make sure everyone was safe, from waiting in lines to the test itself. There was a small tent set up outside the doors for people to wait until their appointment time. Due to the limited number of employees, appointments were staggered and pushed back over one-to-two hours.

During the driving test, there are plastic coverings placed over the seats and paper coverings on the floor mats to decrease contamination. 

“It made me a lot more aware of their presence in the car because of all the rustling,” Cabral said. 

Although it did not inhibit or directly affect Cabral’s driving, she said it made her more nervous.

Senior Aditya Agrawal also took his driver’s license test during the pandemic at the Pleasanton DMV office at the Stoneridge Mall.

“When I was in the car with the certified instructor or the person testing me, we had to keep our masks on and roll the windows down,” Agrawal said. 

As for the process of preparing for the driver’s test, not much has changed. Students still need to take at least three scheduled lessons with a certified instructor, as well as practice for a certain number of hours.

The majority of the issues people hear about the DMV is the long lines and wait times. But Agrawal and science teacher Sarah Gipson said quarantine has helped speed up the process of converting the DMV’s facilities to an easier and more efficient platform.

“Part of what made [booking an appointment] fast is because I had uploaded my documents ahead of time online,” Gipson said. 

Gipson visited the DMV to get her driver’s ID and said the process was easier because she was able to get a few things done online. 

A few other examples of online services the DMV offers is renewing driver’s licenses, requesting a duplicate license, and renewing vehicle registration. Being able to do these as well as other tasks online helps decrease the long lines and wait times at the DMV. It is also beneficial for people that are unable to go all the way to DMV offices during the quarantine. 

The pandemic has changed the normalcy of getting a permit or license as well as changed the way the DMV normally functions, but that may not be a bad thing.

“The way the DMV itself operates has been affected by the pandemic in a good way,” Agrawal said.