Strange days for young drivers in Georgia.

OK, it’s been strange days for everyone, everywhere, this year.

But thousands of Georgia teens have had a particularly strange experience in getting and retaining their driver’s licenses.

In late April, Gov. Brian Kemp signed an executive order waiving the usually mandatory road test for teens who have a learner’s permit, meaning they could obtain their Class D intermediate driver’s license online as long as they had completed all other requirements, including driver education.

The decision was touted as making things easier on new drivers who wanted to maintain “social distancing” due to COVID-19 pandemic concerns.

The applications for Class D licenses could be made online by teens who had held a learner’s permit for at least a year and a day, and temporary licenses could be printed out on a home printer.

And those licenses were printed out by Georgia teens, reportedly in the tens of thousands.

At least, until mid-May.

That’s when the governor and the state made a policy U-turn regarding young drivers.

Kemp issued a new executive order stating people who got their driver’s licenses under the road-test waiver would have to take the test after all.

The new order read: “The Department of Driver Services shall correct public guidance documents … to reflect that the on-the-road test was only temporarily suspended” by the previous order.

Now, those young drivers who received a license online must report to the Department of Driver Services to take a road test by Sept. 30.

Young drivers are urged to make an appointment in advance by visiting dds.georgia.gov.

Whether a teen received the license during the online period, has already taken a road test to confirm that license or is waiting to take the test, we urge parents to reinforce the dangers of distracted driving and to model good behavior.

A AAA report released last fall revealed a changing trend in teen licensure from when the AAA Foundation first evaluated the issue in 2012. At the time, the country was just emerging from a recession, and many young people cited their family’s inability to afford the high cost of driving as a reason why they did not obtain their license sooner.

The new AAA Foundation study surveyed young adults ages 18-24 to determine when they obtained their license and found that nationally, 40.8% got their license at or before age 16 and 60.3% got their license before the age of 18.

We urge young drivers to put the phone down. Texting and driving kills. Drivers have been warned about it. Laws have been passed to prevent it.

Everyone has heard about all the serious injuries and deaths caused by distracted driving but our roadways are still full of people texting and driving.

That is sound advice no matter the year.

We also urge young drivers issued licenses earlier this year to plan now to take the road test. Make the appointment. Take the test.

Yes, granting a license online, then mandating that those who received a license online must take a test after months of legally driving is strange.

But as noted earlier, everything is strange this year.

Valdosta Daily Times

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