COVID-19 Pandemic Puts A Strain On Driver's Education Schools, Teenagers Getting Licenses

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By , WBBM Newsradio 780 AM & 105.9 FM

CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- The COVID-19 pandemic is causing problems for teenagers who want to get their driver's licenses, and Drivers' Education schools are reeling.

This is a season for waiting for teenagers in Illinois thanks to COVID-19. Proms, spring dances, and other rites of passage are postponed due to the suspension of in-person classroom instruction and they will have to wait to get their driver's license.

Illinois Secretary of State offices are closed for the time being, which means teenagers can't get driver's licenses or learner's permits.  Driver Education Schools are trying to adapt to the new normal, with some, like a-Adams School of Driving in Arlington Heights, conducting classroom instruction via Zoom video conferencing or other online apps.

Sixteen-year olds require eight hours of in-person instruction behind the wheel and 50 hours of practice with their parents.

"If they have their permits, they can still drive with their parents and get the 50 hours out of the way, but they have to wait and do the eight hours with us, once the state allows it," said Jim, who works at a-Adams School of Driving in Arlington Heights.

The delay is placing serious financial strain on Driver's Ed schools.  The Illinois Driving School in the Old Irving Park neighborhood has been closed since the start of the stay-at-home order.  

Owner Andrew Danek said business is dried up.

"It's been a total disaster. As soon as they closed the Secretary of State offices down, people can't get permits or licenses, which pretty much put us out of business," he said.

And he said expenses continue to add up.

"Hailstorm broke one of the windshields on one of the cars, you have to replace that.  The city stickers are expiring, you have to replace those. The plate stickers are expiring, you have to replace those and there goes your rent money out the window.  You can see how this turns into a disaster quickly," Danek said.

Danek said he has applied for paycheck protection program loans, but he has not been successful so far. And even when things open up, he expects business to be slow on account of the sudden spike in unemployment.

"It's not like a real necessity. It's not the first thing that parents go 'oh, my 16-year-old kid should get a license. Let me spend my last $350 here to give my kid a license," he said.

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