Teens eager for DMV to open


Photo Caroline Collins

Rahway DMV

The most exciting part about turning 17 is getting a probationary driver’s license. After months of practicing with their permit and driving with their mom as she grips the sides of her seat with every turn, teenagers count down the days until they will be able to take on the roads by themselves. However, for teenagers celebrating 17 in quarantine, not only can they not see their friends, but they also can’t take their road tests. 

The Department of Motor Vehicles closed on March 17 and on May 7, Governor Phil Murphy announced that the DMV will extend its closure through Memorial Day and at this moment, it remains uncertain when it will be safe for the DMV to re-open. 

The abrupt closure of the DMV has upset teenagers who have been excitedly waiting to take their road tests in hopes of receiving their driver’s licenses. They’re missing out on this significant milestone as a result of new, coronavirus-induced protocol. Just like prom and end-of-year activities have been taken away, the privilege of driving has been delayed for many.

Junior Katie McHugh’s seventeenth birthday was in April, well into the shutdown of the DMV. “I understand that the DMV is closed for our safety, and I wouldn’t want to put anyone at risk of getting the coronavirus,” she said. “It still does upset me, though, that I’m missing out on getting my license and it scares me because we have no idea how the process is going to work once the DMV opens up again. There are so many kids who have had birthdays and missed appointments, so it will probably be really hard to get an appointment once the DMV opens again.” 

Amelia Golub, a sophomore, shared McHugh’s concerns. Even though Golub is not yet able to get her driver’s license, she was unable to complete her six hours of driving with a driving school, a requirement for getting a learner’s permit. The closure of the DMV has not only affected juniors, but also younger students who were just beginning the process that puts them on track to get their driver’s license by their seventeenth birthday. If students aren’t able to complete their driving lessons with a certified driving school and pass the DMV written exam at least six months before their seventeenth birthday, their driving test will be delayed. 

“I think it will be much harder to get my permit on time because so many people are waiting to get their licenses and permits, so the DMV will be very backed up when it opens,” said Golub. “Priority will be given to people getting their license and not their permit, which will make it even harder for sophomores like me.”

McHugh is disappointed that she was unable to celebrate her birthday with a driver’s license, but she believes that the DMV should only open again once it is safe to do so because she would not want anyone to be put at risk if the DMV opened when it was still dangerous.

The longer the DMV remains closed, the more worried teenagers get. “As time goes on, I continue to get more and more nervous to hear news about the DMV,” said junior Amya Castallanos. “Summer is just around the corner, so having my license is not only ideal, but also how I would be able to get myself to and from work.”

for someone like me in a single-parent household, it would be helpful to have another driver in the family to take care of some of the things my mom does to take some stress off her.

— Rebekah Allegretti

Students with summer birthdays are anxious about what the DMV will do next, and hope that everything will resume to normal soon, before they join the list of young drivers waiting to get their licenses. 

Jake Snyder, a 17-year-old New Jersey teen, started a petition which would allow students with their permits to get their probationary driver’s license without taking a road test. The petition currently has over 16,000 signatures, and more people are signing it every day. However, officials at the DMV believe that a road test is a necessary step before obtaining a driver’s license because motor vehicle deaths are the leading cause of death in this country. In order to ensure everyone’s safety, a road test is deemed necessary. 

Despite the fact that the petition has been shot down, many teenagers continue to advocate for a law similar to those that have been passed in Georgia, Texas and Wisconsin, allowing students to get their driver’s license as long as they have their permit and have practiced driving with parental supervision. Being able to get a driver’s license during the DMV closure is important because according to junior Aidan Berman, “driving is a teenager’s way to be independent.” 

Rebekah Allegretti, a WHS junior, said that she supports the petition because “for someone like me in a single-parent household, it would be helpful to have another driver in the family to take care of some of the things my mom does to take some stress off her.” Although she thinks it is a good idea, she also said she is aware of the safety concerns that some people have about allowing young drivers on the road without taking a test. 

Students have mixed opinions about the petition, and even though they would love to get their driver’s licenses as quickly as possible, many believe that this is not the safest thing to do, especially in a state like New Jersey where there is a concentrated amount of traffic. Drivers would feel uneasy knowing there are teenagers on the road with little driving experience who have not passed any type of test certifying them to drive alone. 

Berman proposed an interesting idea that would allow road tests to take place while still social distancing and making sure that everyone involved, students and instructors, stay safe. “Maybe in order to take the test, drivers could only use their parents’ cars and the instructor would not step in the car. Instead, they could watch the student driver from outside and maybe set up a camera within the car to see what the student is doing,” said Berman. 

The DMV has yet to release any more information about how the agency will move forward with the pandemic, but teenagers are optimistic that road tests will resume in the near future. Teenagers are eager for a solution, and fast, as the number of students waiting for their driver’s licenses increases every day.