A Republican bill heard in the Senate Transportation Committee this week would allow private driving schools to administer their own driver tests, which raises significant safety concerns. The Department of Public Safety Driver and Vehicle Services has a public interest in maintaining safety on Minnesota’s public roadways. Transferring authority to for-profit entities would create a conflict of interest for these schools by allowing them to pass drivers that may not be ready to drive on public roadways.
This bill is a response to long wait times at metro-area DVS behind-the-wheel driver test sites. Numerous media outlets have reported on excessive wait times to schedule a road exam. But the solution to this problem is not creating a conflict-of-interest for behind-the-wheel instructors; this is an issue of understaffing that the Legislature and Governor Walz attempted to at least partially address last session.
The 2019 special session transportation omnibus bill appropriated over $1 million per biennium to fund a new metro-area DVS exam station with 11 staffers that, once trained, will be able to provide an additional 140 driver tests per day. Site selection is anticipated this summer. The additional resources to fund the new driver exam station will also increase capacity at DVS locations and private deputy registrars across the entire state to more adequately staff these offices, which includes driver examiners.
Deferring public safety to private entities is not the solution we need to ensure drivers’ license applicants receive timely and comprehensive road exams and that Minnesota drivers are adequately trained to maintain safety on our roadways. (SF 3226)