The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a ripple effect of changes in nearly every aspect of our society. Social distancing rules have changed the way our kids go to school, the way we go to work, and the way we socialize.
In some areas, they have also changed the way we give out driver’s licenses.
Georgia Suspends Road Tests
In response to the new social distancing guidelines, the governor of Georgia, Brian Kemp, has suspended the requirement that Georgians must pass the behind-the-wheel test before upgrading from a learner’s permit.
This new rule was set in place in April, and since then there have been nearly twenty thousand teens in the state that have gotten their provisional driver’s license without taking the test.
“These teens held a permit for a year and a day and complied with all Georgia’s mandatory driver education requirements,” said Susan Sports, a spokeswoman for the state’s Department of Driver Services .
These requirements included forty hours of behind-the-wheel supervised training, she noted.
This executive order was given on April 23, but the governor has since released a second executive order that anyone who receives a license under these circumstances will still be required to take a road test by September 30, if they want to keep their license.
Wisconsin has also amended its licensing process and announced in early May that all drivers under eighteen who had successfully completed their required training and who had a parent or guardian’s endorsement are eligible to receive a probationary driver’s license .
A Controversial Decision
While many young drivers are happy that they can get their license without having to take the road test, there are others who are against the decision, stating that it is dangerous to have untested drivers out on the roads.
Many of those people are driving instructors, including instructor Al Barber.
“I believe this is one of the most dangerous acts – this executive order – that we’ve seen in our state,” he said. “Even if you issue them all a license, this will come back to bite us in property damage, fatalities and injuries.” 
Sarah Casto, a driving instructor in Monticello, has started an online petition urging the governor to reverse his decision.
“We understand that this is supposed to be temporary, but the ramifications from even a few weeks of unskilled drivers getting their license can be catastrophic,” she said .
Jeanette Casselano, a spokeswoman for the American Automobile Association (AAA), agrees, stating that by waiving the driver’s test, states are allowing teens to get their license when they could possibly benefit from more practice. She also notes that parents need to be objective about their child’s driving capability.
Even some young drivers are shocked and somewhat apprehensive, about the change. For sixteen-year-old Amaya Johnson, the news first sounded like a joke. Her mother, Catherine, believes that this is irresponsible, and says that her daughter will be going through their own Johnson family DMV before she hits the road by herself.
Amaya, for her part, is relieved. She knows others her age who are getting licensed without the test and isn’t particularly keen on sharing the road with them .
Car Accidents the Leading Cause of Death Among American Teens
This news comes as a terrifying shock to many, particularly to those who have lost a son or daughter in a motor vehicle accident.
In a report released by the CDC, car accidents are the leading cause of death for teenagers in the United States. In 2017, more than 2 300 teens died in an accident, and approximately 300 thousand were treated in a hospital emergency room for injuries resulting from a motor vehicle collision .
The risk for car accidents among teens aged sixteen to nineteen is higher than any other age group, with a nearly three times greater likelihood of being in a fatal crash than drivers over twenty years old. This risk is particularly high in the first few months after receiving their license .
The leading cause of accidents in the age group? Inexperience. Teens are more likely to underestimate or be unable to recognize when a situation is dangerous. They are also more likely to make critical decision errors than older adults .
If you would like to support Castello’s petition, you can sign it here.