COVID-19 Driver’s License Changes: Does Your State Require a Road Test?

Coronavirus has altered a lot about the way we live. In addition to social distancing, face masks and Zoom meet-ups, teens can add one more big change to add to the list: getting a drivers licenses.

With local governments in a constant state of transition between being open and closed during the pandemic, many states are facing a backlog of services as people wait for their DMV to reopen. While many agencies have offered online services for select items, drivers license road tests are impossible to do over the internet.

This means that even as states begin to reopen for business, teens and other people with learner’s permits could have a long wait for their driving test. For example, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation estimated that by early May at least 10,000 teens needed to take a road test, a number that will be hard to serve — especially if reopenings are only partial. 

Only in an extreme situation like a pandemic will local DMVs, DPSs and DOTs waive the road test, and that’s exactly what some states are doing. 

Waiving the Road Test for a Drivers License

For some states, the solution to the backlog problem is to cancel the road test for teen drivers. Doing so significantly reduces the number of people waiting in line and helps DMV employees keep up with their backlog of permit applications, license renewals and more.

But road test waivers aren’t a free pass. First of all, most of the waivers that were passed are temporary, designed only to last a long as pandemic emergency orders are in effect. If your teen is a few months away from their road test, they may have to get behind the wheel at a DMV in the near future.

Second, many states are relying on parents to make the call about their teen’s driving skills, requiring them to vouch for their son or daughter’s skills. Third, most states also require proof of drivers ed and/or a certain hour of driving lessons to waive the road test. 

Each state makes its own rules, so it’s important to have accurate information about the regulations in your area to plan accordingly.

To help you navigate these changes, we’re keeping track of the latest road test information across the country. State transportation officials are changing policies frequently, so check back here often to see what’s happening in your state when it comes to drivers license road tests.

States With Road Test Waivers in Place

Wisconsin

Wisconsin is using the pandemic as an opportunity to launch a new road test waiver pilot program for teen drivers that are trying to get a probationary license. As of May 11, 2020 a driver under age 18 can waive the road test as long as they:

  • Have held a Learner’s Permit for six months without violation

  • Completed a  Wisconsin drivers education course

  • Took behind the wheel courses

  • Logged 30 hours of supervised driving 

  • Not failed a road test in the past

In addition, teens will need an adult sponsor to verfiy their abilities and approve the waiver. But the sponsoring adult can pull their sponsorship at any time, which will cancel the probationary license. 

The Wisconsin DMV says that they intend to run the waiver program through the end of the year to determine if there’s a noticeable difference in the safety and skills of teens that get the waiver. If not, the road test waiver pilot program may become permanent. Teens who uses the waiver now should be aware they may be required to take a road test in the future.

Mississippi

When Mississippi Department of Public Safety (DPS) reopened drivers license stations on June 8th there was one distinct change. Teens with a learners permit were no longer required to take the road test to get a restricted intermediate license. Of course, teen drivers must meet several requirements for a road test waiver:

  • Hold a learners permit for at least one year.

  • Practice operating a vehicle for a minimum of 50 hours.

  • Receive instruction on operating a vehicle from a licensed driver.

A parent or guardian must sign and submit a road test waiver affidavit verifying that the teen driver has taken a Mississippi drivers ed course and/or received instruction from the parent/guardian. The parent is also attesting that their teen driver meets all of the requirements, has adequate driving capabilities and understands road rules. 

North Carolina

North Carolina’s road test waiver is available to teen and adult drivers that meet certain requirements. The North Carolina DMV has outlined four waiver categories for Class C licenses as well as Level 2 provisional licenses.

Here are the requirements for 16 and 17-year old drivers:

  • Hold a Level 1 learner permit for at least 12 months.

  • Complete 60+ hours of behind-the-wheel training with 10 hours driving at night.

  • No moving, cell phone or seat belt violations in the last six months.

  • Pass the vision, hearing and knowledge tests.

  • Have drivers ed and driving eligibility certificates.

As long as you meet the requirements you should be able to get a road test waiver. However, you will need to take the road test to move up to a Level 3 provisional license.

Did You Know Some State Already Had Road Test Waiver Programs?

Did you know some states already had a road waiver program in place before the pandemic? That’s right. Nebraska, Arkansas and Iowa have had a road test waiver program for years. The success of their programs has been highlighted by Wisconsin officials as proof that such programs can be highly successful and safe.

If you don’t see your state, keep checking back. This is an ever-changing situation, and we’ll post new information as everything unfolds. 

*This article was updated on 9/1/2020.

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