Learning to Drive in a Pandemic


By K.E. Fisher

Several generations of people can testify to the significance and accomplishment of learning to drive. Whether in their teenage years or later, it has been seen as a right of passage, of sorts, promising freedom and independence once that driver’s license is earned.

Even in the midst of a global pandemic, where such freedom is a bit less than it used to be, young people are still learning to drive. For some, it’s an even more crucial skill than in years passed, as many teenagers are newly in search of jobs to help support themselves.

The Driving School, based in Oxford, Eaton, and Fairfield, has been more-or-less the go-to for years for Talawanda students. They teach informational driving classes, offer exams, as well as host in-car driving experience with instructors to get kids the hours they need behind the wheel. Obviously, some adjustments have had to be made in the last year.

“We initially ceased all instruction, classroom and behind the wheel, on March 16, 2020,” said Driving School owner and instructor Lou Bevilacqua. “When we reopened, social distancing requirements meant that we could only accept into our live in person classes a fraction of the number of students we would normally accommodate.”

Just as school districts have made a wide variety of accommodations, The Driving School has also done so. 

A Talawanda student reported, “I knew I needed to get my license, but going about driving classes and in-car was scary as it was. I wasn’t totally sure if I wanted to put myself or anyone else in an unhealthy position.”

Luckily for students with these concerns, The Driving School thought of that. 

“The Ohio Department of Public Safety recognized that efforts to complete the backlog of existing students would be an impediment to accepting any new students, thus extending the delays to a whole other batch of students for several more months,” said Mr. Bevilacqua. “The offering of virtual classes, presented synchronously, was seen to be a possible solution.”

Many driving school students, at all levels of driving experience, took to virtual classes to help learn the basics of driving laws, as well as earn their prerequisite to move on to in-car instruction. 

“I logged in for online classes for two weeks,” said a recently-licensed Talawanda student. “It certainly helped with the anxiety I had at the thought of being in an actual classroom. And then I was able to do masked in-car sessions and everything.”

Mr. Bevilacqua reported that in-car instruction is proceeding more-or-less like normal. “Other than the wearing of a mask at all times by both student and instructor, the only changes are the precautionary cleaning of surfaces and the use of a no-contact thermometer to take the temperature of anyone who, upon a brief interview, seems to potentially have been recently exposed to the COVID-19 coronavirus.”

Of all of the years to learn to drive, it feels as though this one may have been one of the strangest. But for many young people, the necessity of finding employment or transporting themselves to and from school has made driving more important this year than ever. Luckily, local institutions and departments have been able to provide education and licensure for those who need it, regardless of the pandemic.