Summer driving schools move to online format amid COVID-19, driver’s-education instructors adapt teaching methods

The Iowa Department of Transportation has created a set of protective standards for the state in an effort to keep students in driver’s-education courses healthy amid COVID-19.


Jenna Galligan

Photo Illustration by Jenna Galligan

Cole Krutzfield, News Reporter

Students across Iowa in driver’s education courses will take their classes online this summer, as the Iowa Department of Transportation seeks to keep aspiring drivers and their instructors safe from the coronavirus.

Steve Stonehocker, Driver Education program coordinator for the Iowa Department of Transportation, said the department has received waivers, effective through August 31, that allow it to hold driving and in person classroom sessions at different points throughout the summer. Traditionally, he said, all those courses would be held the same week.

“… We have received a waiver to allow people who have not received a permit to begin taking Driver’s Education classes,” Stonehocker said. “However, they are still required to have a permit license to take the driving portion of the class.”

Stonehocker added that driver’s education teachers should resume driving lessons when both instructor and student feel comfortable amid the COVID-19 spread.

“We are requiring that both the instructor and student wear masks at all times while completing the driving portions of their driver’s education classes and that the cars be vigorously cleaned and sanitized after every use,” Stonehocker said.

Terry Rew, driver’s education instructor TWR Driver Education Inc. in Iowa City, said he is still attempting to give driving students a traditional classroom experience.

“We have limited the size of our classes to 10 people meeting in person while the other half of the class does the work online and then we rotate on the next class day so that the students that were online last time are in class and the in-class students are online,” Rew said.

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Evan Hartley, a current driver’s education instructor in Iowa City, has used this unprecedented time to debut his experimental program, Driver’s Edge. Already approved by the state Department of Transportation, the program allows driving students to complete their behind-the-wheel training with a licensed adult from their family who films their drive with a dashcam inside the car and submits the footage to their instructor.

Their final drive, Hartley said, is then in person with their instructor.

Hartley said the Iowa Department of Transportation has been extremely proactive in helping people navigate driver’s education programs during the uncertain times of COVID-19.

“When I reached out to ask if they would consider accepting online learning hours in place of traditional classroom hours, I was informed that the discussion was already underway,”  Hartley said. “I was notified that meeting virtually was acceptable, and the DOT provided a list of resources to help jumpstart planning by instructors.”