Virtual Driver’s Ed should not be offered

The advent of the COVID-19 pandemic led to the start of many things.  From remote school to social distancing, many changes in our daily routines commenced.  Now, almost three years after this pandemic began, schools are back in person with no social distancing and no masks.  Despite this, one thing still remains remotely taught: Driver’s Education.  Paul D. Schreiber argues that this is for the better, allowing students to more easily attend and learn to drive, but in reality, this decision is opposed by students and drivers alike.  Prior to the widespread outbreak of COVID-19, Driver’s Ed consisted of two parts: an in-person theory session, where students would learn the nuances of road laws, and an instructional driving session on the road.  Now, students are required to only complete the theory section with the school, and instructional driving is a requirement to be completed with parents/guardians or other licensed adults.  While in concept, this remote model leads to more students being able to attend one of the several theory sessions held per week, it actually leads to less engaging, less accessible Driver’s Education.  The roads become more dangerous, as they are filled with more and more uneducated drivers as this education system persists. 

A main issue with virtual Driver’s Ed is the difficulty students have focusing.  When at home, there are many distractions that can draw one’s eyes from the video call.  

“A big issue with virtual Driver’s Ed is that due to the way it is run, it can be hard to focus,” said junior Robert Cherkas.  

When in-person, a teacher can watch all of the students, ask them direct questions, and hand them papers to complete. While being hosted online, teachers can merely post assignments and hope students follow along.  Moreover, being online allows students to research their answers instead of truly thinking about or understanding the questions posed.  This lack of fast decision making in the classroom leads to students not developing the corresponding skills needed on the road. This means that even if these students are able to pass their license exams, they will be less educated drivers than students who completed a Driver’s Ed course prior to virtual instruction.

A second problem that virtual Driver’s Ed fails to solve is the lack of access to vehicles that many students may face.  This was not an issue prior to online classes, as students could practice driving during the instructional driving segments of the session. Now, however, these segments are replaced by a simple driving log that students must complete with their parents.  

“Some students don’t have access to cars they could use to practice and learn, and the online format fails to account for that,” said junior Harrison Smetana.

Even if students are able to drive with their parents, there is no assurance that the parents are giving the same amount of attention and instruction that a trained Driver’s Ed instructor would be giving them.  With these difficulties in achieving the required driving hours, students are more likely to lie and exaggerate the time they spent driving on their logs, leading to less experienced drivers achieving a full education.

“If I’m not being taught to drive, why should I go?” said junior Harry Kim.   

Many students are avoiding the entire driver’s education system in favor of private programs not offered by the school, or waiting until they are 18 to take a one-day pre-licensing course.  As a result, students are less likely to focus on their driving and learn in a holistic way, as they can just meet the requirements later.  Moreover, they will not learn town-specific skills, like how to complete a difficult intersection or specific rules of parking. 

“I think the entire point of Driver’s Ed is to actually practice driving, which can’t be done behind a screen,” said junior Robert Thornton. 

Driving is a skill learned through experience, and only a trained educator in an in-person environment can teach someone how to drive, and the current system lacks this key component.