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WisDOT offers online license renewals and waves road tests for teen drivers during pandemic

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) announced two pilot programs on May 5 designed to safely address a backlog of demand for licenses during the pandemic.

Eligible individuals with a Wisconsin driver license will be able to renew it online. Individuals under age 18, who successfully complete their required training and have the endorsement of a parent or guardian will be able to get their probationary driver license without completing a road test.

“The Division of Motor Vehicles has been at the forefront of making changes to protect the public and our associates during the public health emergency, while continuing to provide vital public services,” said Secretary-designee Craig Thompson. “These pilot programs represent innovative solutions to help Wisconsin address challenges created by the pandemic.”

The pilot programs begin May 11. Each program eliminates the need for in-person visits to a DMV service center by enabling drivers to complete the tasks online. The pilots allow the public to get service more quickly while maintaining safety.

Online driver license renewal

Due to COVID-19, approximately 80,000 people whose driver license expired have received an extension to renew. Those extensions, with late fees waived, expire July 25, 2020. The pilot program allows many drivers who have delayed visiting a DMV to renew their driver license quickly and easily online at wisconsindmv.gov/renewDL.

To be eligible for this program, drivers must be a U.S. citizen with a regular (Class D) driver license, be 64 years of age or under, have no new medical restrictions, and has not had a negative change to their vision since the last renewal.

Individuals who renew online will receive a confirmation email they can print and use until their new card arrives by mail within 10 days. The $34 renewal fee remains the same. After the next normal renewal cycle of eight years, customers will need to visit a DMV for a new photo to complete the renewal.

Renewing online may not be an option for everyone. While the deadline for a REAL ID has been extended one year to October 1, 2021, customers wanting a driver license that is REAL ID-compliant will need to visit a DMV Customer Service Center. Without a REAL ID designation on a driver license or ID, travelers will need another form of identification, like a passport, for domestic air travel.

Road test waivers for 16 and 17 year-olds

DMV typically conducts approximately 2,100 road tests per week. Nearly 65 percent of these tests are for people under the age of 18, with 98 percent passing their road test on their first or second attempt. Wisconsin also has a Graduated Driver License (GDL) law that places strict expectations on drivers under 18. The GDL requirements have improved safety and will remain in place.

Beginning May 11, road tests may be waived for 16- and 17-year-olds who complete the required training and have their parent or guardian sign the road test waiver. The criteria these drivers must meet to be granted a probationary driver license in Wisconsin include holding an Instruction Permit – also known as a Learners Permit – violation free for at least six months prior to testing, have completed driver education classes, have completed behind-the-wheel training with a licensed instructor, and have completed 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. Parents who opt to have their young driver take a road test at a DMV may schedule that appointment online beginning May 8.

“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,” DMV Administrator Kristina Boardman said. “The DMV will offer road tests, but this pilot program will allow another path forward for those who qualify.”

DMV estimates a backlog of 16,000 road test requests; 10,000 of those will be eligible for the road test waiver. Road test appointments can be made online beginning May 8. Testing, by appointment only, begins May 26. DMV stopped doing road tests in mid-March due to COVID-19. When road tests resume, examiners will apply a seat cover when entering the driver’s vehicle and wear personal protective equipment (PPE), including a face shield, to protect the driver and themselves. After the exam, novice drivers will order their license online from home and the card will be sent within 10 business days.

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Lee Matz

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