Behind the Wheel Shifts Back into Gear

Behind the Wheel Instructor Brian Booth sits on the county training car. (Photo taken in 2019)

Behind the Wheel Instructor Brian Booth sits on the county training car. (Photo taken in 2019)

Erik Judy, News Editor

Orange traffic cones and “student driver” stickers have returned to the school parking lot. FCPS’ Behind the Wheel program—a driver’s license stepping stone—has resumed after a pandemic hiatus.

With the program being reopened, students have been registering in droves, raising concerns about safety. These issues aren’t just limited to the spread of covid-19, but are also about whether or not students are able to receive an adequate education with all of the protocols in place. 

Before covid-19, Behind the Wheel consisted of two to three students getting in a car with an instructor for several hour long periods, learning how to operate a car. The class is required by the DMV in order for students to obtain their license. It’s always been a risky practice, as some students step into the car without even knowing which pedal is the gas and which is the brake.

During the pandemic, the risk has only increased, as a tight, enclosed space is the ideal spreading ground for the virus. But by limiting the number of students in the car to only one or two, wiping down everything after use, and constant masking, these risks have been minimized. This has also allowed for instruction to continue with little change from the way it was pre-pandemic. 

“The class was pretty much as I expected it to be, and wasn’t impacted much by covid protocols,” said Rohith Venkatasen (12). 

Not only have the protocols minimally impacted learning, they still manage to make students feel safe while in the car. “The protocols, in particular having to wear a mask 24/7, did make me feel considerably safer,” said Rami Benhamida (12). “My experience with this class and my instructor were both very good, and I do not think the pandemic reduced the quality of the class.”

These safety measures have eased the worries of Behind the Wheel instructor Brian Booth. “I feel perfectly safe being around students in Behind the Wheel because of how low the actual percentage is of young people getting sick or even transmitting during the pandemic,” said Mr. Booth. “Honestly, I am more afraid to get into a car with teenagers than I am of getting sick.”

With all necessary measures being taken to ensure both the student’s and the instructor’s safety, the risk comes down to the drivers themselves. “[With] some students, I still see the lord and savior at every corner in Falls Church,” said Mr. Booth. “Others are just wonderful drivers.”