COVID’s Impact On Young Drivers

by Olivia Evans

TULSA – A virus many of us didn’t know existed a year ago ended up being a defining moment of our lives. It has impacted nearly every aspect of our lives, including a rite of passage for many young Oklahomans; getting a driving permit.

“People have to wear masks when they’re inside our facilities and they get their temperature taken, and get asked the standard questions about exposure when they come in,” Sarah Stewart, the director of media operations for the Department of Public (DPS) Safety said. “And then obviously, you know, like drive tests and things like that, examiners are wiping.”

From the beginning of the pandemic the agency’s priority has been keeping employees and customers safe.

All April 3rd all DPS offices closed. When the DPS reopened on May 1st, they only allowed appointments made through the official website,

After two weeks of appointment only precautions with no incidents or COVID-19 exposures, the DPS opened to walk-in customers. 

“Of course, we enforce the social distancing guidelines and require people to wear a mask and have their temperature taken,” Stewart said.

For DPS employees, the agency’s supply department worked to keep up with demand.

“Towards the beginning of [the] pandemic, [the supply department] scoured everywhere trying to find hand sanitizer and stuff like that because it was very difficult to locate,” Stewart said.

Emails also appear in the inboxes of employees regularly to remind them of sanitation guidelines.

However, running the offices smoothly have been harder this year not just due to the pandemic.  The department received a 9% cut to its budget this year.  Understaffing only exacerbates the troubles of coronavirus. 

“We’re doing the best we can with the resources that we have, shuffling people around, you know, when necessary,” Stewart said. “There [are] several driver license examiners positions that we are not able to fill right now.” 

The DPS said there have been more challenges this year than anyone could have predicted, but the department continues to provide the best service they can during difficult times.

“We’re just trying to do the best we can with what we’ve got,” Stewart said.

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