COLUMBIA - The South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles is trying out a new system that allows first-time drivers to take both written and road skill driving tests at 30 commercial driver training schools across the state.
The new program began this week in 13 counties. It will be evaluated after several months to see if it is working properly and whether it can be expanded, DMV officials said Wednesday.
“It creates competition for businesses, one-stop shopping for driver license applicants and shorter wait times at DMV offices,” Executive Director Kevin Shwedo said in a release.
Shwedo said the schools must use DMV-trained instructors and their road test routes must be approved in advance by the DMV.
“We expect this program will appeal to parents of first-time drivers,” said DMV spokeswoman Beth Parks, since it allows the teens to take their tests in the same place where they attend driver training school.
Applicants are told that they might be tested again when they go to the local DMV to get their license, Parks said.
She pointed out that all first-time drivers who apply for a license to drive a passenger car must have a beginner’s permit for six months.
If they pass the written test and road skills test after attending a commercial driving school, they will be given a certificate to take to their local DMV to obtain their driver’s license, she said.
Because the new system is being considered a “pilot” program until about September, Parks said, the DMV will conduct random tests and audits at the schools to ensure DMV standards are being met. If a school does not meet the requirements, the DMV can cancel or suspend their agreement with each school and revoke an instructor’s certification, she said.
The 13 counties that are participating are: Aiken, Anderson, Berkeley, Charleston, Florence, Greenville, Horry, Lexington, Pickens, Richland, Spartanburg, Sumter and York.
The schools offering the tests are listed on the DMV website, Parks said.