At the time of writing this, students are just beginning their first weeks in a school year like no other. In fact, the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, has already greatly altered everyday life for Americans — young and old. As we enter the 2020-21 school year, parents, teachers, students, and just about everyone else seems to have questions about what a safe reopening looks like — and driver’s education is certainly no exception.

What’s Changed for New Mexico’s Teenage Drivers During the Pandemic?

The short answer here is “not much, yet also quite a bit.”

How the Path Through Permit to License is Supposed to Work

Traditionally, driver’s education courses in New Mexico have really only happened in-person. So it can be confusing for a parent to navigate this, however, as many online driving schools or classes have existed in the marketplace to help adult drivers for years, not many are geared toward teenage or student drivers.

This is due to how those with a Learner’s Permit are expected to navigate the system. Traditionally, New Mexico legislators have erred on the side of caution when it comes to the amount of education and experience needed to give out a driver’s license to teenagers. While some states offer teens online driver’s education courses in place of those at the MVD, our state restricts that to a list of qualified, in-person driving schools. Visit the state’s Driver’s Education page for more information.

Under normal circumstances, the state’s stance on teens receiving their DMV driving test or permit test through only a handful of (largely local or in-state) establishments does allow for more control of the education process and presumably grants some reassuring protection for our youngest, most vulnerable drivers. After all, it is in the best interest of everyone on the road that the newest and youngest drivers are properly educated and given ample opportunity to grow into their own.

These are not, however, normal circumstances. With the unexpected impact of COVID-19, many New Mexico parents are attempting to navigate the landscape of a learner’s permit for the first time and running into more barriers or questions than answers or solutions.

Interested in learning more? Check out our guide on New Mexico’s Graduated License program for teenagers or get in touch with our support team to see what our MVD services can do to help your family’s situation today!

How Teens Will Get their License Today

As mentioned above, not much has changed for teens amidst the pandemic. However, with many schools across the state showing signs of cautious reopening at best, it is easy to wonder what will happen with in-person driver’s education classes.

The answer to that is, unfortunately, unclear. While adult drivers that are 18-years or older can easily take advantage of virtual tools, classes, and driver’s education schools to use the knowledge gained to ultimately take the standard driving test at their chosen New Mexico MVD, the same option is not afforded to our teenage drivers.

Also, with most in-person programs operating with reduced class sizes or not operating at all, many driver’s education courses in the state are full or filling up fast with students eager to learn the rules of the road from one of the relatively few qualified instructors.

A teenager’s path to a license also includes in-person driving time with an instructor, which some parents may not feel comfortable with when considering the current state of the pandemic. This added variable has put pressure on driving schools to create and maintain sanitation and distancing measures that are well beyond the norm.

All of these factors come together to create a uniquely challenging time to be a New Mexico teenager looking forward to an early driver’s license.

For this reason alone, many parents will push for their children to hit the age of 18, when they can handle all of their driver’s license testing without the extra red tape that comes with a learner’s permit, including the minimum one-year restriction before obtaining an actual license.

If you’re still interested in pursuing a driver’s license for your teenager, ensure that you understand when and how they will complete Stages 1, 2, and 3 of the Graduated Licensing program before committing to a driving school.

Don’t Forget RealID

Whether you choose to wait for your child’s 18th birthday or move forward with the learner’s permit process, you should consider encouraging them to obtain a RealID for their first license.

While the original deadline for states to convert to RealID entirely was set for October 1st, 2020, it was recently delayed one year by the federal government to October 1st, 2021.

For new drivers, this means that obtaining a standard license is still technically possible, but not recommended for future convenience. New drivers may find themselves back at the MVD a year from now looking for the RealID they could have just gotten today.

The process of obtaining a RealID throughout the graduated license program is similar in documentation and scope to that of obtaining a New Mexico RealID driver’s license for adult or existing drivers.

If you’re not sure whether a RealID is worth the effort for your family, check out our handy RealID frequently asked questions page to learn more!

New & Returning Drivers Alike Trust MVD Express

Whether you’re looking for traditional DMV services, such as a title transfer or vehicle registration, or would like help with personal identification, driver’s licenses, or RealID — our team is here for you!

As New Mexico’s original private option, MVD Express offers quick, hassle-free service for our customers across the state. We love helping new drivers obtain their first license and would be happy to take great care of your teen’s questions and concerns.

To schedule a convenient appointment at a location near you, check our location page for the best option. As of this writing, our New Mexico locations are once again accepting walk-ins and appointments, provided that social distancing restrictions are adhered to.

Interested in learning more about our safety precautions for the pandemic? Find the latest information on our regularly-updated COVID-19 page here!