Road tests delayed 7 months
September 17, 2020
The pandemic has slammed the brakes on road tests for Haines 16-year-olds who are eligible to get their driver licenses, frustrating parents and potential drivers this summer as towns such as Skagway and Petersburg continue to provide in-person tests. DMV deputy director Jenna Wright told the CVN this week that applicants should be able to begin testing next month in Haines.
In March, the Division of Motor Vehicles stopped conducting road tests because the driver and test examiner couldn’t maintain six-foot social distance. That was around the same time Natalie Jobbins was scheduled to take her road test, Natalie’s mother Tammy Jobbins said. Natalie has been unable to take a test since.
“You can get your hair cut, but you can’t take a driving test. This is the seventh month,” Tammy Jobbins said. “I wanted her to practice this summer by herself. She’s had her permit since she was fourteen and she’s going to be seventeen in November.”
Jobbins said her frustrations increased when she found out Skagway was conducting road tests. But the DMV doesn’t directly operate Skagway’s branch. In Skagway the police department contracts with DMV to run the office.
Jen Bader said her son Zander turned 16 last Christmas. She wanted to get her son tested in Skagway where they’re doing in-person tests, but they’re only testing Skagway residents. She said taking the test in Juneau would cost too much, and, in addition, Haines drivers would be unprepared for Juneau roads.
“We would have to take a vehicle down there, pay for a hotel, pay for a ferry and then you’d have to drive around for a day or so to get used to all the stop lights and two-lane roads,” Bader said. “They don’t have any of that.”
Since the initial closure, DMV staff piloted a program in Juneau, Anchorage, Soldotna and Fairbanks, where a camera can record the tests and a DMV staff member can watch and score the test afterward.
“The DMV developed an innovative solution to road tests that utilizes satellite navigation devices and remote cameras, which eliminates the need for the applicant and examiner to share a confined space with one another,” Wright said.
Local DMV staff member Teresa Albecker said she was supposed to learn how to conduct the new tests earlier this month, but the training was canceled. “I still have to train for two days to figure out how to do it. I was supposed to start training in September but they canceled it. They said they can’t get the equipment for the training.”
Wright said communities are waiting for the shipment of equipment to arrive before remote testing can begin.
“We are at the mercy of the supply chain right now, but I think it’s safe to say that we will be offering road tests in Haines by October,” Wright said.
When the test becomes available, drivers will need to have a passenger at least 21 years old to accompany them.