For Some States, Getting a Driver's Test Means Paying Big

Aaron Cole
by Aaron Cole

A report by published by the New England Center for Investigative Reporting (NECIR) (via WGBH Boston) details that state’s widening private and public systems for road tests by the Registry of Motor Vehicles.

Prospective drivers may wait hours for an available examiner, or book months in advance — sometimes hundreds of miles away — for their chance at a road test. Or, they could pay hundreds to jump the line, and in some cases, have an examiner come to them.

The story details a growing schism in some places for public tests giving preferential treatment to private businesses because of cash-strapped budgets or over-burdened examiners.

The story detailed one woman, Neşe Lortlar-Ünlü, who said she had booked months in advance a 9 a.m. appointment for a driver’s test, only to wait hours after her appointed time for students who paid for private schooling to jump ahead of her.

“They paid extra money to get (a road test) that day,” Lortlar-Ünlü, a Turkish doctor, told the NECIR. “They did not have to wait like us.”

Massachusetts, like many states, implemented a system roughly 20 years ago to help overburdened motor vehicles offices quickly test more applicants. The system, which added off-hours and weekend testing, allowed private schools to pay for dedicated testers — outside of public availability — to quickly evaluate drivers.

Schools would pay the state $20 per test to cover the cost of the inspector for their own dedicated times.

According to the report, data shows that private schools paid for 26,886 tests in 2010. By 2014, that figure had more than doubled to 55,682 tests.

Private schools in that state can charge nearly $200 for a road test, significantly more than the $35 charged by the state, which can be scheduled more conveniently than a public test.

In 2012, at least 10 states had licensed private schools offering road tests, according to USA Today. In Utah and Oregon, where private schools can administer the road test, costs for a road test vary between $30-$75, depending on whether the student attended driver’s education or is using their own car. In South Carolina, driving tests can cost up to $50 and in Louisiana those costs can go up to $100 for schools that advertise no wait times.

Representatives from several driving schools did not discuss their instruction, prices or testing procedures when contacted.

Families in Massachusetts told the NECIR the extra costs were too much to bear.

“This is clear privileged treatment of those taking the road test through driving schools,’’ Selim Unlu, who is married to Neşe Lortlar-Ünlü, said.

A woman who is skeptical that Massachusetts has a fair system for drivers said the costs were too high.

“For working class families (paying a driving school extra money) is too much” Mary-Ann Knott-Craig told the NECIR. “The time taken off work unpaid, the $35 road test fee, it’s all budgeted for. Paying more is not feasible and frankly, it’s not fair.”

( Photo courtesy Flickr, MSittig)

H/T to David for sending in the story!

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3 of 62 comments
  • Zip89123 Zip89123 on Nov 03, 2015

    The biggest scam 'payment' is the 3 or more hours of ones life wasted standing in line for a 5 minute transaction, meanwhile DL's are handed out like Halloween candy to illegal aliens who can't speak a word of English.

  • George B George B on Nov 04, 2015

    My concern with the Massachusetts semi-private system is the incentive for people administering the test to provide a passing result for their best customers. It would be better if driving tests were completely separate from payment for driving instruction. My girlfriend's daughters have both been through private driver ed courses in recent years here in Plano, TX. The school does a good job, but I'm glad the grandparents paid for it. The process also requires homework in the form the student practicing driving with a parent. Interesting to watch teenage driving skills improve from horrible to not bad with several months of practice. Driving tests are administered by the state and are completely separate from driver education here in Texas. Driving tests are scheduled online and teens try to schedule the test on their 16th birthday. The new Driver License Mega Centers have a system where you can get in line online and show up when you get a text alert.

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