Alexa Hoffman of Orleans had expected to get her learner's permit when she turned 16 in April. But because of the pandemic, she had to wait until mid-June to begin the process, which also delayed when she could get her license.

“I actually should have gotten my license yesterday if we were in normal times," she told GBH News on Oct. 30. "But now I have to wait until December, which is quite hard because of rides and things like that for school and stuff.”

Hoffman and her mom were counting on her driving by now, so she could get herself to school, her part time job and figure skating lessons.

As it has with almost all facets of life, COVID-19 has cast a pall on the traditional coming-of-age ritual of getting a driver's license for teens across the commonwealth. The Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles reports about 17,000 teens have gotten licenses so far this year. That’s on track to be only two-thirds of the 2019 number.

The pandemic has also changed how kids get their driver's education training. Each car now has only one student and a driver, which makes the process take longer than before. And, Steve Rossetti, director of driver training for AAA Massachusetts, says instructors now face new challenges — they must wear gloves and constantly disinfect their cars, and they have installed vinyl dividers between students and instructors.

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