Driving Schools Shift Gears During Pandemic

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NORRISTOWN, PA. — Social distancing in the age of COVID-19 has rendered behind-the-wheel driving lessons nearly impossible for drivers hoping to get their license.

Department of Motor Vehicle locations are shuttered across Pennsylvania and Ohio where permit and license tests are administered and driver licenses are renewed.

Preventative Measures in Pennsylvania and Ohio

The only licenses currently issued in Ohio are Commercial Driver’s licenses to account for the increased demand for truck drivers to shuttle goods throughout the country. Pennsylvania will stop all operations at DMV branches until the pandemic ends. Expired licenses will remain valid until the pandemic ends in both Pennsylvania and Ohio.

These preventative measures have left driving instructors like Mark Caplan of Caplan’s Driving Education in Norristown, Pennsylvania, struggling to teach students.

Private Driver Training Schools in Pennsylvania are governed by the Department of Education, which is following the guidelines of Gov. Tom Wolf who closed all school entities until the threat to health and safety has ended.

A Driver operating their vehicle.

Learning to Drive during a Pandemic

“When you put two people inside of a car, you are definitely not six feet away,” Caplan said.

He has changed his teaching from typical behind-the-wheel lessons to consultation to help students who have earned their permit. He reminds students to control the speed of the vehicle, manage space between cars, and to check the surrounding terrain for hazards.

“Roadways may be deserted in correspondence with the stay-at-home orders, but drivers who remain on the highways may be more inclined to drive faster than normal, which poses additional hazard to students,” he said.

Skills like merging onto the highway may become easier now, but students should still practice once the roadways become congested to get a more informed sense of the road before taking their driving test.

Skills like crossing busy intersections may be harder to grasp after the pandemic.

The future of Driver’s Education beyond COVID-19

 As preventative measures lessen, students may approach driving differently. Extreme sanitation of designated driving education vehicles will have to occur after the Pandemic has ended.

“There is a good demographic of young people today who have no motivation to drive – have no problem using public transportation or Uber instead,” Caplan said.

This demographic may be more motivated to drive to help slow the spread of the COVID-19, instead of boarding public transit, which may become a breeding-ground for germs.

Caplan said he is eager to get back to teaching when things return to normal.