▶️ Drivers Ed rolls along; pandemic puts brakes on classroom lessons

By BROOKE SNAVELY
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS

Driver Education courses took a hit during the coronavirus pandemic.

Most programs shut down due to the inability to maintain adequate social distance.

But one driver education course is still up and running in Bend and there is a great demand for its service.

“We clean, and clean and clean. We have disinfectant wipes that we use in between all drives, before and after,” said Chris Larson, owner of Deschutes Driver Education.

The business closed for a time when the pandemic first hit.

But, it resumed classes in May.

The student and teacher wear masks while in the car.

“The behind the wheel stuff, we have always been one-on-one with our students,” said Mark Larson, owner Deschutes Driver Education.

“Unlike some programs that’ll have an instructor, a student and another student in the back seat, we don’t do that. We are one-on-one. We are totally focused on our one student.”

The biggest change is the lectures – the classroom learning sessions.

Those are now conducted via Zoom.

“Our audience had to agree to put their phones away. They had to agree not to have distractions other than it’s OK to eat dinner because our classes are 5:30 to 7:30 and they are very respectable about that, but it is a very different environment when you are not directly with your student,” Chris Larson said.

Mark Larson said, “We have made parents and students sign COVID waivers that, not just from the standpoint that we are held harmless; you’re not coughing, you don’t have a fever, you haven’t dealt with anyone that’s got COVID, all those kinds of things. We are taking all the steps we possibly can and we have had no issues.”

Another thing that’s changed during the coronavirus pandemic is traffic volumes around town.

A couple of months ago it was easy for student drivers to find parking spaces in downtown Bend.

Now it’s crazy crowded.

“Today I had people pull right out in front of us. You get people who are right on your rear end because you aren’t going fast enough, even though you are going the speed limit. It doesn’t matter if it says ‘student driver’ all over your car. They don’t care about that. It’s ‘get out of my way.’ We are back to the same aggressive and same level of traffic we had before COVID hit,” Mark said.

“I hope that all of drivers ed is able to come online again and it won’t be just us. We are staying pretty busy right now,” Chris said. “We are the only one in town right now.”

Mark Larson said he hasn’t had a student yet mention COVID.

“Parents are just happy that we are in business and they are very willing to follow the protocols. It’s been great. It’s been real busy.”

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