Provided by Bibianna Rodriguez
The Department of Motor Vehicles is known for its excruciatingly long lines and slow service. As sophomore Caitlin Stark explained, “My visit was better than I thought it was going to be with how everyone had described it to me; since it was my first time to the DMV I was expecting a huge line with tons of people there…”
When she arrived, she stated that they asked why she was there (for her driving permit), asked for her number, gave her a ticket, and said she would get texted reminders of how much longer until her ticket would be called. She used those three hours to run errands.
This safety measure of making customers wait outside, along with health screenings and temperature checks, are just a few of the extra precautions the DMV has taken as of August 20th.
Regarding the regulations, Stark stated, “I think it’s useful, I just wished they had enforced it more because where the line was to walk up, there were quite a few people sitting against the wall. Also one of the workers was wearing a mask made out of fishnets so it wasn’t very useful to help slow the spread.”
Since the DMV first closed field offices statewide in March, the department has had a bumpy road dealing with COVID. In June, Victorville’s DMV had a health scare after an employee tested positive. June was the same month the DMV reinstated behind-the-wheel drive tests. The DMV automatically rescheduled all canceled appointments and postponed new tests until the cancelled ones were completed.
This was inconvenient for senior Lauryn Tess. She stated that she went to the DMV back in August to take her behind-the-wheel driver’s test. Her initial appointment in March was cancelled.
“I was unable to make a new appointment until at the end of June; I got a message saying that I had a DMV scheduled appointment on the 26th at 10am. This was super annoying as they only gave me a 2-3 days notice, I was out of state at the time, and I was unable to … cancel my appointment. I was then able to finally schedule an appointment for August 7,” said Tess. She had a hard time contacting them by phone as the number registered as “unknown.”
She continued to state that she ran into a roadblock when she learned that she would have to renew her learner’s permit since it had expired. She had difficulty obtaining her social security number, and had to get her dad to sign some documents. Additionally, she had to get her picture retaken. The detour to renew her permit added another 1 to 2 hours to her visit.
In July, the DMV extended non-commercial licenses that were set to expire March through July until July 31, 2020 (for ages 69 and younger.) They also extended learners permits that were set to expire March through August six months from the date of the application. In October, the DMV gave further extensions. The California DMV website states that those 69 years and younger with noncommercial licenses expiring from the beginning of March 2020 will have “expanded eligibility to renew online or by mail for licenses expiring during the emergency.” Noncommercial learner’s permits expiring from March to November 2020 will be “extended six months or to a date 24 months from the date of application.”
Tess explained that the extension “helped [her] as [her] learners permit expired in June, a time when [she] couldn’t get an appointment before due to the pandemic.”
She goes on to state, “This extension was helpful but the DMV website never told me of the process I had to go through to renew it at the DMV. It said I could renew it before but the website made it difficult to find exactly where to go to renew it (for me at least).” Tess passed her exam despite the complications.
Regarding the extension, junior Sara Mahho stated, “I am glad they did this, because no one should have to go through doing the process all over again because of the pandemic, so this is good for so many people.” She added that although it did not benefit her directly as her license was originally set to expire in August, she knows many people that it did help.
Her sister junior Susie Mahho stated, “…it isn’t our fault we couldn’t take our behind the wheel tests and our other tests because a pandemic came in the way.”
Sara and Susie Mahho, along with junior Alan Murillo Ezrre, had a relatively short wait when they took their behind-the-wheel test. They all had their appointments rescheduled as well.
Junior Bibianna Rodriguez had a different experience. “I went to three different DMV[s] to try and walk in to get my license without an appointment. I drove to a DMV about two hours away… I waited about 3 hours waiting for a cancellation and I took the test in the place of someone who didn’t show up.”
During the pandemic, behind-the-wheel driving instructors were still active. Rodriguez described her experience with the driving classes. “I had done two lessons before the pandemic and then one in the pandemic. It was a 2 hour lesson each time. The lady was very nice and respectful. She talked with me the whole time I was driving. She made sure I understood all the rules of the road and how to be safe. During our breaks, she would take me to a gas station and buy me a snack and drink. Overall the experience was great!”
Alan Murillo Ezrre stated, “I had a scary experience [with behind-the-wheel classes] but not so much because of COVID, I was just nervous for the test.”
“I’m taking behind-the-wheel classes right now and I’ve been having a good experience so far; we’re both wearing masks, and before and after driving I put hand sanitizer on,” stated Caitlin Stark.
On her opinion of the extensions, Stark stated, “I think that was very generous of them. It benefits my grandparents on my mom’s side since they both turned 70 this year and have been trying to get into the DMV to do it. I’m not concerned because I can’t get my license till March anyway.”
As of September 30th, noncommercial licenses of those 70 years or older set to expire from March through December will be extended one year from the original expiration date. Additionally, on October 28th, Governor Newsom issued an executive order that “allows people 70 years of age or older to renew their drivers’ licenses by mail, further limiting in-person transactions at the Department of Motor Vehicles and helping this COVID-19 vulnerable population isolate at home.”
Sara Mahho passed the exam and has had her license for 4 months now. To the students reading this article, she states, “Do not stress, just make sure if you are taking your permit test or driving test, to just keep practicing, and make sure to be patient when trying to get an appointment, because there is a lot of people in your position trying to take the test, so just [do that] and I can guarantee you will get your driver’s license and pass your permit test!”
This page from the DMV offers tips and resources to help people prepare for their tests.