The pandemic has closed schools, canceled graduations and put summer vacations on hold. However, the biggest disruption for juniors and a few sophomores pertains to not one event but a teenage milestone: obtaining their driver's licenses.
The NJ Motor Vehicle Commision closed on March 20, around the same time schools did, so no new 17-year-olds have been able to take their road tests.
Junior Emily Kiernan would have taken her test on her birthday, May 21. “ I felt frustrated since I rely on people to drive me places, and I was looking forward to having more freedom to go where I wanted,” Kiernan said.
Countless other students echoed Kiernan’s thoughts, so junior Jake Snyder decided to take action.
Snyder created an online petition, on change.org, called “Let us Drive”. Within the petition he wrote a multi-paragraph statement on why 17-year-olds should be eligible for their drivers licenses without taking the road test.
He was inspired to start this petition by states such as Georgia and Texas which were waiving the road test for some students. He also cited the need for teenagers to run errands for their grandparents and other senior citizens to protect them from COVID-19 as a reason to waive the test.
The petition garnered nearly 17,000 signatures and gained media attention, being interviewed by NJ.com.
Snyder used social media to reach a wider audience and make his petition more impactful. He was also able to connect with media outlets and other students who wanted to be involved through instagram and twitter.
“Without social media I wouldn’t have been able to start the petition. Once people viewed my petition, they shared it with their friends and family on social media which is how it was able to spread all across New Jersey,” Snyder said.
However, he also faced some challenges that social media could not solve. He said, “It is almost impossible to get a hold of the head of the MVC since she doesn’t respond on Twitter, and she keeps her email private.”
Although he was unable to get a response from the head of the NJMVC, Snyder was still willing to pursue his goal of getting the would-be new drivers an exemption from taking their road test.
When the NJMVC reopens on June 29, with restrictions for safety, there is sure to be a long line of 17-year-olds eager to hit the road.