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Pandemic puts the brakes on licenses for new drivers

The coronavirus pandemic is causing delays for people who want to get their first driver's license in New York state.

Before someone can schedule a road test, the state requires them to complete either 24 hours of formal driver education or a five hour prelicensing course.

That has been on hold since mid-March, since classroom instruction is not allowed because of social distancing concerns.

Mike Formanowicz, manager of driver training for AAA of Western and Central New York, said at least 300 students who registered for the class in Rochester, Buffalo and Syracuse are still waiting.

"Now that we're into the middle, towards the end of July, we're at the point where a lot of these kids are going to be going away to college soon, and they were hoping to have their license before then," he said.

Under a new law signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo last year, the five-hour prelicensing course also can be taken online starting this fall. The New York State Deparment of Motor Vehicles says the online instruction is only available to people who are 18 and older. 

In the meantime, Formanowicz said it's a good idea for students to get more practice, especially if most of their time behind the wheel so far has been in the last several months when remote working and job loss meant fewer cars on the roads.

"Businesses are starting to reopen, we're starting to see more traffic," he explained, "so I would certainly encourage those waiting to sign up for the road test to make sure they continue to drive because they'll get more accustomed to what traffic is going to be in real life once we turn the corner on this thing."

Copyright 2020 WXXI News

Beth Adams joined WXXI as host of Morning Edition in 2012 after a more than two decade radio career. She was the longtime host of the WHAM Morning News in Rochester, where she was recognized for her work by the New York State Associated Press Broadcasters Association and the New York State Humane Society. Her career also took her from radio stations in Elmira, New York to Miami, Florida.