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Wisconsin DMV looking to make road test waiver program permanent

Updated: May. 14, 2021 at 6:33 PM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - Since May 2020, a waiver allows 16 and 17-year-olds to skip the road test requirement in Wisconsin. Instead of actually getting behind the wheel to get their license, parents of the teens can go online and choose to waive the road test for their child. Wisconsin’s Department of Transportation started this pilot program during the pandemic. Officials with the Department of Motor Vehicles said teenagers are required to hold a drivers permit for at least six months, required to complete approved driver education courses with third-party schools or with their high school, and have to log at least 30 hours of driving with their parent or sponsor in a variety of conditions. Then the teenagers can receive a probationary driver’s license online, where distractions are limited in the car by requiring them to only have one person in the vehicle that’s not related to them, and then there are limited hours that they can operate the vehicle.

DMV officials said about 49,000 waivers have been issued since the program started last year. Now, the DMV believes the waiver option has been beneficial and would like to see this pilot program made permanent. It says other states have been doing this for years and have seen success.

“We are getting very good comments back from our customers from parents feeling very comfortable with this option and thankful that this is a choice,” said Kristina Boardman, Administrator, Wisconsin DMV.

Boardman said the permit was included in Governor Tony Evers’ budget, while Kris Engebretson, the owner of Advanced Driver Training in Green Bay, says some driving schools were told by Representative Callahan’s office that it was removed.

“The joint Trade Finance Committee decided to go back to the basic budget, which from our understanding removed that part from the governor’s budget. And so now they will have to, if they want this program to be a permanent program, they would have to go through the full legislative process to get it,” said Engebretson.

Engebretson said if the road test waiver would become permanent, it would negatively impact his business.

“I believe it would hurt the driving public simply due to the fact that again the teens, are no longer taking the driver training seriously, they just put in their time. Driving schools are required to pass the student, as long as they complete all their hours with us. So, if we have a student that is not driving very well, there’s nothing we can really do. We just have to pass them, and they get their driver’s license,” Engebretson explained.

DMV officials said they are no longer seeing backups in wait times to take the in-person road test. They are asking people to schedule out about four weeks in advance.

Boardman says they aren’t having many negative impacts from the people who took the waiver option.

“People that took the waiver we’re seeing about 1.7 to 1.8% are received convictions are involved in crashes, the ones that took the test with us, for whatever reason, these 16 and 17-year-olds have a 2.1 to 2.3% are showing convictions or crashes,” said Boardman.

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