The Wisconsin Division of Motor Vehicles announced May 5, that the driver’s test could be waived temporarily for 16 and 17 year olds because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dave Gratz, owner of the Oregon Driving School, said the waiver may become permanent.
“The road test has been a rite of passage,” said Gratz, who owns the Oregon Driving School with his wife Marcia that services Oregon, Stoughton, Evansville and Belleville. “To me (waving road test) it’s a game-changer.”
Gratz said when the law was changed to allow the waiver that took effect May 11, he was a little taken aback.
The school hasn’t made any changes in its driver’s education program. The 30-hour requirement for driving with a parent or guardian and six hours with a certified driver’s instructor are still required.
According to a DMV news release, 2,100 road tests are conducted per week. Nearly 65% of these tests are for people under the age of 18, and 98% of students pass the road test on their first or second attempt.
“One of the reasons they don’t pass it is they get really nervous,” he said.
The pilot program will continue for the foreseeable future and may become permanent.
“It may be a decision to do this permanently, but it will be based on the data collection” said DMV Secretary-designee Craig Thompson in a news release.
The state Department of Transportation started the two pilot programs to eliminate a backlog in 10,000 teens waiting to get their driver’s license. The first pilot program is for eligible people with a driver’s license that can be renewed online and the second is individuals under 18 who have completed the required training, including the classroom portion of driver’s education and have the endorsement from a parent to get their probationary license without a road test.
Gratz said, although it seems unsafe to waive the road test, the DOT wouldn’t have made the change if it wasn’t safe.
“At our driving school, the parents do a good job of preparing them to drive,” Gratz said. “We just fine-tune the mechanics.”
Gratz said he has had some good drivers fail the road test for rolling through a stop sign or stop light.
“There are always some drivers that will slip through who are not ready,” he said.
He said parents can still require their teenager to take the road test. Parents who opt to have their young driver take a road test at a DMV may schedule that appointment online.
The criteria teenagers must meet to waive the road test are they must have a learner’s permit for at least six months, must have completed driver’s education classes, completed behind-the-wheel training with a licensed instructor and completed 30 hours of driving with a parent or guardian.