The process of earning one’s first driver’s license can be a challenging and sometimes harrowing experience. A pilot program that would allow first-time drivers to take both written and road-driving tests at commercial driver-training schools might make the experience a little easier for all concerned.
The S.C. Department of Motor Vehicles will try out the new program, which began last week, in York County and 12 others across the state. After several months, the system will be evaluated to make sure that it adheres to DMV standards.
If the idea works, it could be expanded to more counties.
Nothing would change regarding the requirements for getting a driver’s license. First-time drivers still would have to get a beginners permit and practice driving for six months. And they still would have to go to a DMV office to get their permanent driver’s licenses.
But instead of scheduling and taking the written test at the DMV and taking the road test with a state trooper, prospective drivers could do all that at a licensed driver-training school. After students are taught driving skills at the school, instructors could administer the necessary tests.
If students pass, they get a certificate to take to their local DMV to obtain a driver’s license. DMV officials retain the right to re-test an applicant, but it seems unlikely that they would do so very often.
The DMV also will conduct random tests and audits at the schools to ensure the proper standards are being met. If a school dosn’t meet the requirements, the DMV can cancel or suspend its agreement with each school and revoke an instructor’s certificate.
DMV Executive Director Kevin Shwedo touts the program as good for driver-training businesses. It also is likely to result in shorter wait times at DMV offices.
But another big benefit is likely to be a higher comfort level for first-time drivers. Marching into a DMV office for a road test with a trooper can be a scary and unsettling experience, which can effect performance. Students who are comfortable with an instructor who has been teaching them the fine points of driving are likely to be more at ease when they take the test for their driver’s licence with that same instructor.
This seems like a sensible plan to both make it easier for teens to get their first driver’s license and to free up troopers for other tasks. And maybe the lines will be shorter for everyone at the DMV.
The schools offering the tests are listed on the DMV website, www.scdmvonline.com.