Permit or Pandemic?

For teens learning to drive, the pandemic has made it even harder to get on the road.

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Cheyenne Swiatkowski, 11, patiently waits at the wheel for her mom. She says, “My mom always takes so long, and all I want to do is get on the road.”

Alefiya Presswala, Bear Hub Staff

For a lot of kids, turning sixteen years old is symbolic. It’s almost as if you’ve reached the better end of your teen years.  And in New Jersey, it is the age when you are now eligible to earn your learner’s permit. Earning a permit is almost a representation of the path to freedom: it’s one step away from earning a probationary license and being able to drive by yourself. Most teens jump at the opportunity to get their permit weeks after they turn sixteen so they have the maximum amount of time to practice. However, the COVID-19 pandemic interrupted the sophomore year of the class of 2022 and DMVs shut down for months, completely complicating the process of getting a permit. For people with birthdays during the lockdown, it was a long wait before they could get theirs.

EBHS junior Marisa Myron, who celebrated her sixteenth birthday in March just a few weeks before the lockdown, got her permit six months late. She says, “My dad wanted me to get it as soon as I could and I loved it.”  Luckily for her, Marisa was also able to find a driving instructor easily.

For others, it was not so easy.  Jessica Hansen, another junior at EBHS, describes the process she went through: “Most of the DMVs were only open during mornings, and I had a job as a camp counselor, so I had to wait even longer. On top of that, once I finally did get [a driving instructor], I then had to wait over a month to take three 2-hour lessons over the course of two weeks.”  Jess turned sixteen in June and received her permit five months after.

Although the procedure for obtaining a learner’s permit is a little more complicated for this year’s juniors, it isn’t ruining the excitement of learning how to drive. “I adore driving and I am so good at it,” junior Nora Hennessy tells the Hub. Cheyenne Swiatskowski, 11, adds, “I had to wait a long time to get my permit, but now that I have it, I like driving a lot. It’s super fun.”

Cheyenne Swiatkowski, 11, smiles from the driver’s seat of her mom’s car, happy to be finally learning to drive.

Driving is a privilege: it is a freedom to be able to go anywhere you want at any time you want. It seems that the class of 2022 is persevering through their permit problems and getting a taste of that freedom.