WISCONSIN (NBC 26) — Teen drivers across Wisconsin looking to get their driver’s license may no longer have to take a behind-the-wheel driving exam under a new proposal from Governor Tony Evers approved by the Legislature’s budget committee on Tuesday.
RELATED STORY: Driving tests for teen drivers could be waived
A Green Bay driver instructor, who has trained new drivers for about 30 years, says the lack of the traditional behind-the-wheel test can be a concern for those on the roadways.
“At this point, I’m not for the program simply due to the fact that we don’t have enough data to show that it’s effective,” said Kris Engebretson, Advanced Drivers Training Owner. “We are putting individuals out there without really testing to make sure that they are capable of operating the motor vehicle safely and responsibly. It’s not really difficult to operate a motor vehicle but can you do it responsibly and defensively to ensure the safety of others drivers on the road,” Engebretson said.
He said it’s good to be tested as it forces the student to prepare.
“Over my years of doing this, I have seen a lack of practice. The students will just come out and tell me, ‘yeah I haven’t practiced with my parent, but all my parent has to do is sign my form that I did do 30 hours of practice and I get my driver’s license,” Engrebetson said.
From May 2020 through April 2021, there were 48,100 drivers who obtained their license without taking the traditional drivers test, according to budget papers prepared by the Republican-controlled committee who voted to allow the state Department of Transportation (DOT) to provide waivers for the test effective next year.
Engrebretson said he has already seen some of the effects over the last year.
“We’ll get kids riding in the car that will tell us ‘hey I don’t need to know that because I’m doing the waiver program. I don’t need to lane change properly. I don’t need to know how to parallel park, I don’t need to uphill park, I’m doing the waiver program they’re not going to test me’,” Engrebretson said.
The state estimates that about 75% of applicants a year would waive the driving test, or about 20,250 out of 107,000.
Kristina Boardman, Administrator for the Department of Vehicles (DMV) says they've been pleased with the waiver program over the last year.
“We’ve had about 52,000 parents make the choice to waive the road tests for their child. We’ve been very closely looking at all the safety data and we’re not seeing a difference in people who choose to waive the road tests versus those who do take the road tests with who would otherwise be eligible for the waiver. We are not seeing a disconnect in safety once they are licensed drivers,” Boardman said.