DPS slams on the brakes

New generation of drivers displaced by COVID-19

Rush-hour+traffic+blocks+up+the+620+on+the+way+to+school.

Isabel Young

Rush-hour traffic blocks up the 620 on the way to school.

Isabel Young, Staff Reporter

For many teenagers, getting a driver’s license is a rite of passage, something that comes with growing up. But because of social distancing restrictions this year, appointments at the DPS are being pushed further and further into the future. The idea of driving is starting to feel more like a distant dream than reality.

Driving for me means freedom, being able to go out with my friends on my own terms, and I flew through the online course to apply for my permit. I had all my papers in order. All I had left to do was book the appointment. But when it came time to do so, I was faced with a blank screen that displayed the words, “Appointment booked for Jan. 2.”

At first, I honestly thought that I had gotten my birthday wrong. My friends who had their permits had gotten theirs only days after their birthdays, not more than six months later. The appointment wasn’t even booked for an Austin office. It was hours away in a part of Texas I’d never even heard of. I tried again, with the same results.

I’m far from the only person experiencing this issue. Last year, DPS customers reported lines out the door, and that they were waiting for hours in the heat, according to an August article in the Houston Chronicle. This time around, with strict social distancing guidelines, those extensive lines are virtual. The only difference is that instead of lasting hours, they’re lasting for months.

New drivers aren’t the only people affected by the new rules. In Texas, Saturdays have only been scheduled  for renewing or replacing licenses, meaning that people who need this service have even more limited options for appointments. For the rest of us, it means yet another day we’re not getting our licenses.

For students, this could potentially be more than just another annoying side effect of the COVID-19 shutdown. It’s no secret that Vandegrift’s transportation system is overcrowded, anyone sitting in early morning traffic could tell you that. When the full student body returns in the future, it’s possible that many students will still be without licenses. With the addition of the ever-expanding freshman class, and without the seats new drivers were supposed to have given up, there simply won’t be anywhere to sit.

This is why it’s especially important for students to carpool this year. If your older sibling or friend drives, consider riding with them instead of taking the bus. If the majority of students did this, not only could we prevent the issue of bus overcrowding, we could reduce the number of cars on the road, helping traffic and parking problems.

If you’re like me, and your license appointment is far, far in the future, take it as an opportunity to adapt. If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s that we’re much more creative than we think.