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DMV wants to make road test waiver program permanent for driver's education students

The D.M.V. says it wants to make the waiver permanent, but some driver’s education instructors think it’s making the roads more dangerous.
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Posted at 2:47 PM, Jan 25, 2023

MILWAUKEE — Ever since the start of the pandemic, driver’s education students in Wisconsin have been able to get a license without taking a road test with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

That waiver is still in effect as long as the student’s parent offers consent.

The D.M.V. says it wants to make the waiver permanent, but some driver’s education instructors think it’s making the roads more dangerous.

Going to the D.M.V. for a road test is usually the last step for new drivers to prove they’re prepared to safely drive the streets before getting their license. That hasn’t been the case for a majority of 16 and 17-year-olds coming out of driver’s education over the past few years.

The D.M.V. says 108,000 road test waivers have been approved. That makes up 87 percent of driver’s education students who have received their license since May 2020.

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16-year-old Maya Hayes just finished her driver’s education, but her parents wouldn’t let her waive the road test.

"A big part of it was my mom and we just wanted to make sure I can follow all the guidelines and basic driving,” she said. “Not just what we think but like from a professional to see if, 'okay, she can really do it.’”

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Stevie Davis is a driver’s ed instructor at Easy Method Driving School.

"I'm totally against the waiver,” he said. “I want it to stop."

When the D.M.V. created the Road Test Waiver Pilot Program, it increased the amount of time driver’s education students need to spend behind the wheel with their parents from 30 to 50 hours before obtaining a license.

"I ask my students all the time, 'Do you drive with me or do you drive with your parents too?’ Most of them say, ‘I only drive with you,’” Davis said.

Davis says no documentation is needed to prove that 50 hours of practice actually happens.

"I say over 85 percent of my students only drive with me because their parents are scared they're going to wreck the car,” he said.

The D.M.V. initially launch the Road Test Waiver Pilot Program to prevent the spread of Covid. Nearly three years later, DriversEd.com shows Wisconsin is just one of four states that still have the waiver in place.

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The D.M.V. says it’s been carefully monitoring the program. The department says data shows students who took the road test have an 18 percent higher crash and traffic citation conviction rate than those who waived the test altogether.

"The data makes a compelling case to make this pilot program permanent,” a DMV spokesperson said.

Jodie Donabar supervises Milwaukee Public Schools’ driver's ed program. MPS Drive helps thousands of students get their licenses each year.

"I would guarantee half, if not more, have gotten the waiver."

“Do you think the waiver for this road test is a good thing?” TMJ4’s Ben Jordan asked.

"I'm of two schools on that,” Donabar replied. “A road test is a rite of passage, so I think everyone should take a road test because they can fail a road test, but getting the waiver form, the parents have to sign off on it, the parents' information gets put in the system with the student information, but the students have just completed our program so our hope is they're driving safe to start with and have had some practice."

The D.M.V. says the Road Test Waiver Pilot Program will continue indefinitely with no end date in sight.

In order to make it permanent, Wisconsin lawmakers would need to approve the change. An effort to do that two years ago by Gov. Tony Evers was denied by the Wisconsin Assembly.

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