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COVID-19 traps Central Coast teen drivers in license limbo

Posted at 7:24 AM, May 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-14 15:09:50-04

The coronavirus is responsible for countless interruptions in our day-to-day lives and that includes an important milestone for many Central Coast teenagers, who were just one test away from becoming a licensed driver.

One of those impacted teen drivers is Katey Kramer, a 16-year-old Arroyo Grande student, who loves cruising around in her new car.

"I have a little Mini Cooper," Katey Kramer said. "All my friends think it's funny that I'm like 5'11 and I drive the little Mini Cooper."

Her mother, Shelly Kramer, said Katey has waited anxiously to drive her dream car and has taken driving lessons seriously.

"She was that kid that wanted her license on her 16th birthday," Shelly Kramer said.

But thanks to the spread of COVID-19, Katey's 16th birthday came and went without a license.

"You need four lessons to take your drivers test and the day before my last lesson, coronavirus had it canceled," Katey Kramer said.

Along with driver's ed programs across the state, California DMV's closed, leaving young drivers in license limbo.

"Katey's independent, she wants to take herself," Shelly Kramer said. "I'd love for her to be able to go to the grocery store for me or run an errand, she's ready but she just can't do it."

Katey is one of about 40 students at Precision Driving School who have completed weeks of lessons but didn't complete their final test before the coronavirus restrictions took effect.

Katey's driving teacher, Brent Langford, said he reached out to state leaders with questions about students returning to class.

"They got back to me and said 'ok, it would be appropriate for you to start back up once the DMV starts doing drive tests again,'" Langford, who runs Precision Driving School, said.

Though none are on the Central Coast, a handful of California DMV offices have since re-opened. But even those locations are not yet offering driving exams.

When they do re-open, Langford expects the DMV to have a long backlog of appointments for driving tests.

"They were actually booking into June before the shutdown," Langford said.

The DMV is extending all learners permits that expired between March 27 and June 30 for 6 months.

With much of the economy still closed, Katey would have few places to drive anyway.

"If I wanted to drive to the beach and watch the sunset, I can't do that on my own," Katey Kramer said.

But for now, that important milestone is a dream stuck in neutral.