Despite delays due to COVID-19, teens are now licensed to drive

ABOVE: Brooke Maston’s plan to get her intermediate driver’s license the day of her 16th birthday didn’t go as expected due to restrictions surrounding COVID-19. After a slight delay, she eventually got her license.

                Turning sweet 16 is often a milestone birthday for teens who look ahead to exciting opportunities such as driving solo. Many freshly-turned 16-year-olds make the day one to remember and head to their local DMV to get their intermediate drivers’ licenses. Teens celebrating their sweet-16 birthdays this year during the COVID-19 shutdown have had to adjust their expectations. Read more about two local teens who recently turned 16 and had a slight delay in driving solo thanks to 2020’s global pandemic.

                Natalie Nikkel, daughter of Jared and Stacey Nikkel of rural Sully, celebrated her sweet 16th birthday on Apr. 6. Before coronavirus became part of daily conversation, Nikkel always envisioned culminating her milestone birthday with a trip to get her license to drive and along with it, keys to driving without route parameters. Nikkel’s previously-held school permit only allowed her to drive for school functions on a direct route from her home to school. However, closures surrounding COVID-19 kept Nikkel at home until she could locate an open DMV.

                “The courthouse and DOT offices were all closed, so we kept checking for a way to get my license online and found it one day on the Iowa DOT website,” said Nikkel, who finally got her license on Apr. 27.

                Since she is now legally able to drive anywhere, Nikkel has mainly been driving around and to area ponds where she enjoys fishing with friends.

                Brooke Maston of Killduff, daughter of Dale and Erica Maston, is another April birthday girl who celebrated her sweet 16 in COVID-19 style. Limited opportunities to celebrate with friends or family surrounded her Apr. 17 birthday given the closures and social distancing guidelines in place. Plans affected included Maston’s original intention of kicking off her sweet-16 birthday weekend with a trip to the DMV to get her intermediate license the day of her birthday.

                Rather than stopping by the Jasper County Courthouse on Apr. 17, Maston filled out a form on the Iowa DOT’s website and waited for a call from a DOT representative. She received the DOT call in a very timely manner and was asked a few questions. A week after her birthday, Maston had her driver’s license in hand on Apr. 24. She’s since taken advantage of the freedom and opportunity to drive herself to and from friends’ houses.

                The Iowa DOT’s website expresses the DOT is operating under the directive of 50% capacity and encourages people needing services to operate business online or make an appointment. An online service selector tool is available at www.iowadot.gov to help people navigate their way through questions surrounding drivers license accrual and renewals. In some cases, according to the DOT’s website, teens pursuing a license may be able to complete the process online through a remote issuance parent’s/guardian’s consent form. Once the completed form is processed, a customer service representative contacts the interested party to begin the next process, which takes 7-10 business days. In these scenarios, licenses will be received via mail, just as they would have done if the teen visited a service center.

                Walk-ins are not permitted at service centers at this time. If a teen wishes to get their license by visiting a service center, appointments are required.

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