BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - Acquiring a driver’s license is a rite of passage for many teenagers, but the coronavirus pandemic has put that on hold in Mississippi.
DMV’s across the country have been closed or severely restricted for weeks now due to COVID-19. It’s not only an inconvenience to thousands of people; it’s also a disappointment to teenagers hoping to hit the road.
"It's just kind of a letdown,” said 16-year-old Mariah.
On Thursday, Georgia announced plans to allow 16-year-olds to get licenses without taking a road test. Instead, they only need a written statement attesting they have completed nearly 40 hours of supervised training behind the wheel.
In Mississippi, however, teens looking forward to get their licenses will have to continue waiting.
Mariah is one of many teenagers in South Mississippi anxiously waiting for the driver’s license bureaus to re-open.
“It’s just disappointing,” said Mariah. “This is a milestone that everyone looks forward to and, as a teenager, you want to be able to drive your car to school, go to lunch, pick up your friends. But now because of COVID, it’s very hard to celebrate as you would. I understand that it’s for a better good but it’s just kind of sad.”
Despite her disappointment with the delay, Mariah doesn’t believe the driving test should be waived.
“I think it’s better to stick with the driving test,” said Mariah when asked whether Mississippi should follow in Georgia’s footsteps. “Some parents don’t hold their children to the same responsibility with their driving so I think that there should be a definite assessment of the person’s driving because they are going to be on the road and there are going to be lives at stake.”
Right now, it's unclear when Mariah and so many others will be able to get a license. While she waits, Mariah, under the supervision of her mom, is taking advantage of the time to practice driving as much as possible to make sure she is ready.
All driver license stations in Mississippi remain closed until further notice, except for the nine MHP District Troop Stations across the state, which includes the Biloxi location. However, those stations are only providing sex offender registry transactions and Commercial Driver Licenses.
Expiration dates for all valid driver’s licenses, learner’s permits, intermediate licenses, firearm permits, security guard permits, and ID cards set to expire between March 14, 2020 and June 30, 2020 have been extended to August 3, 2020.