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WisDOT waives in-person road test for young drivers, allows some online license renewals
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WisDOT waives in-person road test for young drivers, allows some online license renewals

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Those under the age of 18 will be able to secure a driver’s license without completing a formal road test, under a new pilot program unveiled by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.

In an effort to address a testing backlog and limit in-person visits to Division of Motor Vehicles service centers during the COVID-19 pandemic, DOT on Tuesday announced that 16- and 17-year-olds will not have to take the road test and some drivers under age 65 will be able to renew their licenses online.

“These pilot programs represent innovative solutions to help Wisconsin address challenges created by the pandemic,” DOT secretary Craig Thompson said in a statement.

Both pilot programs begin Monday and are expected to remain in place for the remainder of the year.

The DMV traditionally conducts about 2,100 road tests per week, with almost 65% of those for people under the age of 18. Of those, 98% pass the road test on their first or second attempt.

Under the pilot program, road tests may be waived for 16- and 17-year-old applicants who complete the required training and have a road test waiver signed by a parent or guardian.

In order to receive a probationary driver’s license with the road test waiver, applicants still must hold an instructional permit for at least six months before testing and complete driver-education classes, behind-the-wheel training with a licensed instructor, and at least 30 hours of driving with a parent or sponsor.

The DMV estimates it has a backlog of 16,000 road test requests, with about 10,000 of those eligible for a waiver.

The waiver is not mandatory and parents can still opt to schedule a road test appointment.

“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’s license, this program, which has been safe and effective in other states for years, will allow them to move forward,” Kristina Boardman, DMV administrator, said in a statement.

Online license renewal

In response to restrictions caused by the pandemic, about 80,000 people have received extensions until July 25 to renew their expired licenses, DOT said.

Now many drivers will be able avoid visiting the DMV by renewing their licenses at wisconsindmv.gov/renewDL.

In order to be eligible, a driver must be 64 years old or younger and a U.S. citizen with a regular Class D license, as well as have no medical restrictions or further deterioration in vision.

Applicants who renew their licenses online still must pay the $34 fee and new licenses will be mailed to them.

However, applicants seeking a driver’s license that is REAL-ID compliant must visit the DMV. The deadline for getting a REAL-ID, which can be used as a form of identification for air travel, has been extended to Oct. 1, 2021.

Photo gallery: How COVID-19 is affecting Wisconsin

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