Opinion: The new Maryland driver’s test doesn’t actually test your driving abilities


photo courtesy of Lincoln Aftergood

Junior Lincoln Aftergood holds up his license after passing the new Maryland driver’s test.

Lincoln Aftergood, Reporter

Passing the driver’s test is a common rite of passage for 16-year-olds across the country. However, during the COVID-19 pandemic, this test has been haphazardly modified to allow for social distancing at the cost of properly evaluating whether teens are really ready to become independent drivers.

The new driver’s test consists of three parts: the driver has to pull into a parking space and then back into it and complete a three-point turn, with three minutes allotted for each maneuver. This is significantly different from the previous test which required the driver to demonstrate proper driving techniques on public roads in addition to the ability to back into a parking spot.

You might think that the new test captures the most important parts of the old one by requiring the driver to show proficiency in parking, but in no way is that the case. Being able to park or perform a three-point turn within a time limit does not equate to being able to safely drive on roads or highways. 

The most important part of driving is being able to properly handle your car on the road while constantly being aware of your surroundings. As a new driver who recently took this modified test, it was clear to me that many of these important skills were not assessed at all. The earlier test focused on changing lanes, obeying traffic signs and turning correctly, which would have been more reliable indicators of applicants’ ability to drive.

As the prerequisite for receiving my license, I logged and completed 60 hours of driving to prepare myself for the test. However, only a few of the skills I learned during those hours were actually evaluated by the instructor. It would be simple for someone to lie about completing their 60 hours and pass the test easily.

Many parents and prospective new drivers might be excited about the new test because it is easier, faster and seemingly less stressful. However, as more and more unprepared drivers are allowed to go on the roads, this modified test will become increasingly detrimental to the safety of people in Maryland.

According to the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration, an average of nearly 100,000 car accidents occur each year in the state, with such accidents being the leading cause of death for teens above the age of 15. The number of accidents will only increase when more inexperienced drivers are allowed on the roads.

The test was originally changed in order to keep instructors and drivers safe. However, if proper safety measures were taken, then there would be little risk of anyone becoming infected with COVID-19. If instructors and drivers wore masks and face shields during the test, had their temperatures taken, and guaranteed that they had not been in contact with anyone sick, then there is little chance that either would contract the disease.

The MVA should consider returning to the original test that included open road driving to fully determine whether people are experienced enough to drive safely.