Wisconsin will waive road test requirement for teen drivers amid pandemic

Wisconsin will waive road test requirement for teen drivers amid pandemic

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) announced on Tuesday that it will be waiving the road test requirements for drivers under the age of 18 to receive licenses.

The department said it will begin waiving the requirement for drivers 16 and 17 years of age under a new program on May 11 as state officials work to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus, which data shows has infected thousands in the state and killed more than 300 people.

Under the new program, the department said the road test requirement may be waived for teens “who complete the required training and have their parent or guardian sign the road test waiver.”

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In order to receive a probationary driver license in the state, the office said teens must already have a learner's permit and have had no violations for at least six months. The office said they must also have completed driver education classes as well as “behind-the-wheel training with a licensed instructor [and] at least 30 hours of driving with their parent/sponsor and their sponsor signs the road test waiver.” 

“The 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 office said.

Parents who would rather their teen driver take a road test to receive their license will be able to schedule an appointment with the Wisconsin Division of Motor Vehicles (WDMV) online starting May 8.

“Testing, by appointment only, begins May 26. DMV stopped doing road tests in mid-March due to COVID-19,” WisDOT said. 

The department also announced it would be allowing drivers whose licenses have expired to renew them online next week, assuming they meet eligibility requirements.

Due to the pandemic, the office said about 80,000 drivers whose licenses had expired were granted extensions for renewal. The office added that the WDMV estimates a “backlog of 16,000 road test requests” due to the pandemic. The WDMV also estimates about 10,000 of those requests will be eligible to have the road test requirements waived.

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WisDOT Secretary-designee Craig Thompson said in a statement that the “pilot programs represent innovative solutions to help Wisconsin address challenges created by the pandemic.”

“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,”” Kristina Boardman, who serves as administrator of the state’s DMV, also said in a statement.

“The DMV will offer road tests, but this pilot program will allow another path forward for those who qualify," she added.

The pilot programs are expected to run throughout the remainder of the year, WisDOT said.

The move comes about a week after driving officials in Georgia announced a similar effort to allow teens to receive a driver’s license without completing the required road test amid the pandemic.