‘Capitol Connection’ – DMV Offers Easier Path to Learner’s Permit

October 3, 2012

Teaching our children how to drive is one of the most important skills that we pass down from generation to generation. While the process may sometimes be stressful, driving helps teach our teens about responsibility and prepares them for the future, whether that means driving to school, work or even just picking up groceries. Despite the importance of learning how to drive, many parents might rather just avoid the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) entirely because it is often regarded as a symbol of government inefficiency and long wait times.

Two months ago, I had the opportunity to take part in this important family tradition as my oldest child turned 16 and can say that the process has gotten much better. Until now, parents and teens were required to simply walk in to a test center and wait for their number to be called. Because many expressed frustration over long wait times, state government has become more responsive and initiated a new program designed to make the experience more enjoyable.

Starting last May, the DMV launched a new online system allowing parents and their teenage children to make an appointment to take the learner’s permit knowledge test. This means that wait times are significantly less and the experience is much more pleasant. For now, the service is currently only available at a brand new test center located at 1625 Highland Avenue in Cheshire. This is where I had the chance to experience the process myself, and I must say that I was impressed.

To apply, the process is fairly simple. Anyone with a computer, laptop, tablet or smart phone can schedule an appointment to take the test. One only needs to follow the instructions, choose a date and time, enter all required information, and make a $59 payment by credit card. It is the same cost for a regular walk-in appointment that will still be available at the other major DMV offices. Testing is available on Wednesday and Thursday from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and Saturday from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

The test itself is the same as any other learner’s permit test. It is taken on a computer and features 25 different questions. In order to pass, one must answer 20 of the answers correctly. While parents wait in a comfortable room, the process often takes less than 30 minutes. It is somewhat stressful for parents as I saw at least two teens come into the room upset that they had to return to be retested and you wait with some anxiety for your child to appear at the doorway.

Believe it or not, more than 30,000 teens between the ages of 16 and 17 apply for a permit each year in our state. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the leading cause of death for teenagers is a motor vehicle crash. As such, it is essential that we teach our teenage drivers about safety. The process has been changed in recent years to encourage safer driving behavior. Some of the new restrictions limit the number of passengers and the times that teens can drive. These rules are intended to make driving safer and the statistics have reflected an improvement.

Now more than ever, we must focus on making government more efficient and responsive to the people that it serves. This new online program is a positive example of this effort. At the end of the test, parents are asked to take a short survey about the process. Believe it or not, over 97% of parents said they were “very satisfied” with how long they spent at the test center. It was such an easy and enjoyable experience that I would highly recommend it for anyone who is planning to take the learner’s permit test. If you would like to learn more about the program, please visit the DMV website at www.dmvteen.ct.gov.