Wisconsin DMV waives road tests for teens to combat coronavirus backlog

Coronavirus

(WFRV) – To address a backlog of demands, the Wisconsin Department of Motor Vehicles has announced it will temporarily waive road tests for 16- and 17-year-olds.

The DMV made the announcement Monday, along with the option to renew driver’s licenses online, in order to respond to the backlog created by the coronavirus pandemic.

According to the DMV, beginning May 11, road tests may be waived for 16- and 17-year-olds who complete the required training and have their parent or guardian sign a road test waiver. These drivers must meet the following criteria to be granted a probationary driver license in Wisconsin:

  • They must hold an Instruction Permit (also known as a Learners Permit) violation-free for at least six months prior to testing
  • They must have completed driver education classes
  • They have completed behind-the-wheel training with a licensed instructor
  • They have completed at least 30 hours of driving with their parent/sponsor and their sponsor signs the road test waiver

Restrictions of a probationary graduated driver license still apply for at least nine months.

“Parents or guardians are vital to ensuring novice drivers are equipped to safely drive. The waiver is not mandatory,” the DMV says. “Parents who opt to have their young driver take a road test at a DMV may schedule that appointment online beginning May 8.”

The DMV says they typically conduct about 2,100 road tests per week. Nearly 65 percent of these tests are for people under the age of 18, with 98 percent passing their road test on their first or second attempt. Wisconsin also has a Graduated Driver License (GDL) law that places strict expectations on drivers under 18. The GDL requirements have improved safety and will remain in place.

“Safe driving is a result of practice and instruction. When young people learning to drive have completed all necessary requirements and demonstrated to their instructors and to their parents or guardians that they are ready for a probationary driver license. This program, which has been safe and effective in other states for years, will allow them to move forward,” DMV Administrator Kristina Boardman said. “The DMV will offer road tests, but this pilot program will allow another path forward for those who qualify.”

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DMV estimates a backlog of 16,000 road test requests; 10,000 of those will be eligible for the road test waiver.

Road test appointments can be made online beginning, Friday, May 8. Testing, by appointment only, begins May 26. DMV stopped doing road tests in mid-March due to COVID-19. When road tests resume, examiners will apply a seat cover when entering the driver’s vehicle and wear personal protective equipment (PPE), including a face shield, to protect the driver and themselves. After the exam, novice drivers will order their license online from home and the card will be sent within 10 business days.

DMV customer service centers will have expanded hours May 11 to May 22, Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. The goal is to serve as many customers as possible who require an in-person visit while maintaining safe social distances in lobbies. Appointments are recommended.

The DMV also introduced the ability for eligible drivers to renew their licenses online.

“Due to COVID-19, approximately 80,000 people whose driver license expired have received an extension to renew. Those extensions, with late fees waived, expire July 25, 2020. This pilot program allows many customers who have delayed visiting a DMV to renew their driver license quickly and easily online at wisconsindmv.gov/renewDL.”

To be eligible for this program, drivers must meet all the following, according to the DMV:

  • Must be a U.S. citizen with a regular (Class D) driver license (Commercial Driver Licenses do not qualify).
  • Must be 64 years of age or under.
  • No new medical restrictions.
  • Has not had a negative change to their vision since the last renewal.

Customers who renew online will receive a confirmation email they can print and use until their new card arrives by mail within 10 days. The $34 renewal fee remains the same. After the next normal renewal cycle of eight years, customers will need to visit a DMV for a new photo to complete the renewal.

Renewing online may not be an option for everyone. While the deadline for a REAL ID has been extended one year to October 1, 2021, customers wanting a driver license that is REAL ID-compliant will need to visit a DMV Customer Service Center. Without a REAL ID designation on a driver license or ID, travelers will need another form of identification, like a passport, for domestic air travel.

These pilot programs are expected to continue through the 2020 calendar year.

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