Facilities are now open for driver’s licensing exams in counties in the yellow and green phases, while exams will be conducted with social distancing measures in place.
Tests will be conducted on a closed course in the parking lot with examiners outside of the vehicle, said Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s Deputy Secretary for Driver and Vehicle Services, Kurt Myers. The examiner will give the driver instructions and observe the driver stopping, turning and conducting basic road maneuvers. The applicant will be scored based on the standard point system. Drivers will also be asked to parallel park and show their knowledge of the vehicle with turning on headlights and other standard steps. The applicant, licensed driver and examiner will be asked to wear masks.
The infamous parallel parking portion of the test, Myers said, isn’t about whether a person is able to parallel park.
“It’s to ensure you are demonstrating good eye-hand coordination with that vehicle,” he said.
Myers compared the new test procedure to the motorcycle test, which also requires an examiner to observe without being on board.
The licensed driver will be in the car with the student. Customers will also be asked basic health questions before the test in yellow counties. In counties in the green phase, applicants won’t be asked health questions, but the exams will still be completed on a closed course with the examiner outside. After the test, the information will be uploaded onto an iPad, and, if the new driver passes the test, he or she will go inside for their driver’s license photo and leave with the license.
Eventually, he said, the tests will revert to the standard road test.
“With that being said, there are a lot of innovative ideas that have been driven by the last couple months, so there are some things we may decide to keep,” he said.
Those whose tests were canceled due to COVID-19 will be given first priority for rescheduling their tests through June 19. On June 20, tests will reopen to others. Letters were mailed on Monday to those whose tests were canceled. Motorcycle licensing exams are also returning on the same schedule.
Myers said they will have a backlog of customers waiting for the test, with about 18,000 typically scheduled each month. Summer is usually the busiest time of year for driver’s skill tests. He said they will work to get through the backlog as quickly as possible.
“This isn’t just about a 16½-year-old being able to get their license,” Myers said. “This is about mobility, and it’s about the individual being able to get to a job if they need to, and whether young or old, it’s about getting where they need to be, and it’s about quality of life.”
PennDOT has also temporarily halted REAL ID customers after the deadline was moved to October 2021. Centers typically received about 5,000 REAL ID customers every day, and the delay will help deal with a backlog of other transactions. About 20,000 to 25,000 customers visit PennDOT centers every day, he said.
“Those transactions don’t go away. They’re simply delayed,” he said.
They plan to start issuing REAL IDs again by late summer.