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North Carolina Teen Drivers Back On The Road For Driving Tests

female driver extends hand through sunroof of car
North Carolina teens can resume on-road tests for driving after the Division of Motor Vehicles suspended the tests during the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

North Carolina teenagers can now get back on the road to take tests for their driver's licenses.

The North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles modified the road test when the coronavirus pandemic hit last year. Called “contactless road tests,” they required drivers between 15- and 17-years old to drive around a parking lot while an instructor gave directions from a distance. The DMV says that was to protect the safety of instructors who get inside multiple cars a day.

The DMV started the road test back up on Monday, and spokesperson Steve Abbott said now that the test has left the parking lot, it will be more extensive.

“The big thing that we didn’t get with the contactless test was the instructor can see how a driver is reacting in actual traffic,” Abbott said. “If there’s no one who will be blowing a horn, or there’s no traffic lights, there won’t be sides of tractor-trailers — real life conditions.”

The DMV has opened 100 locations across the state to get teens testing for their license on the road, said Abbott. That’s up from the 28 locations where the contactless road tests were offered.

Fewer locations created a backlog in the thousands, with people having to wait months for a test, Abbott said. Resuming the test at more locations should alleviate that backlog.

Abbott says road tests for adult drivers are still on hold. Those drivers will continue to need temporary waivers from the DMV.

Catherine Welch is news director at Rhode Island Public Radio. Before her move to Rhode Island in 2010, Catherine was news director at WHQR in Wilmington, NC. She was also news director at KBIA in Columbia, MO where she was a faculty member at the University Of Missouri School Of Journalism. Catherine has won several regional Edward R. Murrow awards and awards from the Public Radio News Directors Inc., New England AP, North Carolina Press Association, Missouri Press Association, and Missouri Broadcasters Association.
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