Maryland driver’s education program goes virtual
March 1, 2021
In the midst of rapid changes in school policies, standardized testing policies, and college application requirements, Maryland’s driver’s education program has also undergone significant changes in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In June 2020, Maryland’s Motor Vehicle Administration (MDOT MVA) temporarily authorized a virtual driver education program along with a modified driving skills test. These measures will only be effective as long as the COVID-19 state of emergency lasts.
While nineteen states in the U.S. regularly allow online driver education courses, Maryland is not one of them. Thus, virtual Driver’s Ed is a very new system to all Maryland residents. While program changes were kept to the minimum to maintain the legitimacy of the program, applicants should still be aware of the requirements before registration.
First, MVA encourages applicants to check that driving schools offering virtual learning have been approved by the standards outlined by MDOT MVA before registration.
Second, the non-commercial driving skills test will not take place on a public road, but applicants must be prepared for the following maneuvers: vehicle inspection, pull-in parking, three-point turn and back-in parking.
Many RM students preparing to get a driver’s license at this time responded to these changes quite positively, listing flexibility in time and convenience as the top benefits.
“The class was two weeks on Zoom, and throughout this entire process I was practicing driving with my parents to get the mandated 60 hours,” junior Kalina Sloat said. “The test was definitely easier since they cut the road portion and just tested on parking, with the instructor outside the car offering instructions.” Sloat obtained her license last year in November.
“Personally, I preferred virtual Driver’s Ed. It is a lot easier to attend a class online,” junior Elise Barber said. Barber is currently at the final stages of obtaining her license.
Furthermore, students expressed that the quality of the virtual program did not emerge as an issue, contrary to initial concerns from the public. “I think the program really understood the modified test. We went over exactly what the test would look like and the skills we would need to know to pass it, and all the other information that I use on a daily basis when actually driving was definitely communicated,” Sloat said.
Virtual or not, driving is a widely necessary skill that requires a thorough understanding of the rules as well as real-life practice.
“I would suggest practicing a lot. Also, you should listen more to your driving instructor than your parents or family members because you’d be surprised at how many people don’t exactly follow all the rules of the road,” Barber said.
More information regarding the driver’s education program and a list of MDOT MVA approved driving schools offering virtual learning can be found here.