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Hearings promised on driving test wait times, preferential reservations

Sen. Scott Newman promises the Senate Transportation Committee will "exercise its oversight responsibility to figure out how this favorable treatment happened."

ST PAUL, Minn. — The Minnesota Senate is promising to hold hearings after recent KARE 11 Investigates reports that revealed extraordinarily long wait times to take driving tests, and a hidden system of “standing appointments” given to certain driving schools at a handful of metro locations. 

Our investigation found demand is so high for testing spots that some driver’s license applicants are camping overnight outside testing facilities, or driving hundreds of miles to secure an open slot. In addition, KARE 11 found the state has a special arrangement with 23 driving schools at Arden Hills, Plymouth or Eagan for reserved testing spots. Those testers get to "jump the line" if they pay extra. 

KARE 11 reported on internal emails showing DVS officials wanted to scrap the standing appointment system last fall but dragged their feet while waiting for a study. Deb Carlson, who is the Drivers Exam Program Manager, said in an email that she’d heard reports of schools selling access to those appointments. KARE 11 posted those emails online.

RELATED: KARE 11 Investigates: Skip the line? Lawmaker questions ‘unfair’ driving test system

RELATED: KARE 11 Investigates: Driving test delays inconvenient and possibly illegal

On Wednesday Senate Transportation Finance and Policy Committee Chair Scott Newman (R-Hutchinson) promised action in the approaching legislative session to make things better, referencing the KARE 11 reports.   

“State law makes very clear that Minnesotans have the right to take their driver’s test in a reasonable time frame and in the county in which they reside," Newman said in a written statement. "The idea that certain driving schools have an arrangement with the state that allows their students to receive preference is outrageous, particularly when others are literally camping overnight to get a testing spot."

RELATED: KARE 11 Investigates: State officials wanted to scrap unfair driving test system a year ago

Newman is promising that the Senate Transportation Committee will "exercise its oversight responsibility to figure out how this favorable treatment happened," and how it can be prevented moving forward. 

In fact, Sen. Karin Housley has already proposed legislation that would allow non-state, third-party driving school instructors to be certified to administer the test – much like the system for licensing school bus drivers. 

Also Wednesday, DVS Director Emma Corrie sent an email to licensed driving schools addressing the issue. In it she says DVS is working with a state team to study the effectiveness of standing appointments. The email indicates the study should be complete by the “end of the year". At that time DVS will decide whether to continue the practice.

Corrie also revealed “improvements” to the state’s exam scheduling system.   She says the new processes have opened up 300 road test appointments since late August. 

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