Legislation would temporarily exempt driver's license road test

Published: Jun. 5, 2020 at 9:12 PM EDT
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Student drivers with their permits have been itching to take the final test and get their license from the DMV, but social distancing has put the brakes on those plans.

Now, state lawmakers are looking to help them get their licenses and worry about the test later.

Both the state Senate and House have passed bills to allow for student drivers who qualify for the road test to go ahead and get their license for now. Soon, a conference committee will join forces from each chamber to come up with one bill to present to Governor Cooper.

Cooper Allen is a junior at DH Conley High School. He's been ready to get his license since his 16th birthday, something he considers a rite of passage, but he can't take the test due to COVID-19.

“That's the part of your life when you get a little more freedom and you can do stuff that you want to do,” said Allen.

As a construction worker, he says it’s hard to get around without a license.

“I can't really help out as much on the job site; I can't go to certain jobs by myself. I have to just ride with someone.”

Representative Chris Humphrey is sponsoring a House bill that would let drivers like Allen skip that test until the pandemic is over.

“They need a provisional license to go to work, to help their parents, to just do things that 16-year-olds do,” said Humphrey.

Not excluding a little leisure activity, of course.

“I'd love to go to the beach on a Saturday after getting off work and just chill on the beach for the weekend,” said Allen.

Humphrey says his own daughter is almost 16 and would be getting ready to take her test, and he hopes she's able to eventually for the same reason that many parents want their children to be able to drive.

“She has practice after school, she's still trying to work a job. I can relate to parents that are concerned about this.”

Humphrey says he and the other bill sponsors are hoping to provide a temporary solution to a temporary problem.

“They've done what they're supposed to do and now we need to find a way to at least make a short-term exception.”

Humphrey says on average over 90 percent of drivers who take the test pass it, so it's unlikely that most students aren't actually ready for their license. He adds that if the bill passes, parents will have to make the decision on whether or not their driver is road ready.

If enacted, HB 1189 would let drivers forgo the test until the DMV brings them back, or 180 days from the day it's passed.

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