Government agencies throughout Wisconsin and around the world have had to adjust their policies and programs to cope with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) is no exception, and one of the department’s latest changes could have a major impact on Wisconsin drivers.
In an effort to reduce DMV visits during the coronavirus pandemic and cut down on the backlog of teen drivers waiting to get their licenses, WisDOT has launched a pilot program that will allow eligible drivers to waive the road test and still receive a probationary driver license. According to WisDOT, 10,000 drivers ages 16 and 17 are eligible for road test waivers.
One of the biggest concerns associated with teen drivers skipping road tests is the potential impact on car accidents. Driver inexperience is a significant risk factor for car accidents, and the road test is generally viewed as a key component of making sure young drivers are ready to operate a motor vehicle safely.
According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, 16-year-old and 17-year-old drivers have “the highest rates of crash involvement, injuries to themselves and others and deaths of others in crashes in which they are involved.” This is the exact age range of the 10,000 drivers Wisconsin will allow to receive a license with what can only be called an incomplete education in how to drive.
Eligibility for a road test waiver is broadly similar to the requirements for obtaining a probationary driver license. The teen driver must hold an instruction permit and be free of violations for at least 6 months, complete driver’s education classes (including classroom instruction and training behind the wheel), and have at least 30 hours of driving experience (including 10 hours of night driving).
In addition, a parent or guardian must sign the road test waiver for their teenager to be exempt from the road test. Signing the road test waiver signals that the parent or guardian “agrees to accept responsibility and vouch for the safe driving abilities of the new student.”
Teens who meet the criteria for the road test waiver receive the same probationary license as their peers who complete the road test. This graduated driver license imposes several restrictions on new drivers, including:
Restrictions on number of passengers and time of day while driving may be lifted after 9 months if the driver has no violations. Drivers become eligible for a full Wisconsin driver license when they turn 19.
As you can see, teenagers who qualify for the road test waiver are required to complete the same amount of training as their peers who received driver licenses before the changes caused by COVID-19. When they receive their license, they are also subject to the same graduated driver license rules designed to give young drivers time to hone their skills behind the wheel.
Unfortunately, with 16- and 17-year-old drivers already the age group most likely to be involved in a car accident, the road test waiver in Wisconsin may remove an important part of training safe drivers.
The impact of the road test waiver on accidents involving teens will not be apparent for some time after the launch of this program. If you are injured in a collision with a teen driver, here are some important steps to take:
It is natural for a 16- or 17-year-old to feel immediately overwhelmed when they get into an accident. Some may cry inconsolably, while others may appear belligerent.
No matter how the teen acts, it is important for you to remain calm. Even if you are 100 percent not at fault for the accident, allowing your emotions to run high will only make the situation worse.
Instead, focus on important next steps like checking yourself and your passengers for injuries and calling 911 for help. You likely know better what to do after a car accident than a teenager, so it is in your best interest to take control of the situation.
As with any car accident, exchanging information is crucial. If the other driver is a teenager, pay close attention to a few details:
Considering the restrictions imposed on drivers with a probationary license, noting these factors can support your accident claim against the teen driver.
One of the key differences in car accident claims involving teenagers is the name on the insurance policy. For 16-year-old and 17-year-old drivers, they are not likely to be listed first on the proof of insurance card. In fact, the name you find on the driver’s license may not be listed on the insurance document at all.
At the scene of the accident, get all of the information you can from the driver’s license, registration, and proof of insurance. When you contact a car accident attorney, he or she can advise you who is liable for your injuries.
At Studinski Law, LLC, we recognize the life-changing impact of car accidents. Our lawyers have proven experience helping car accident victims, and we will draw on our experience to create a unique strategy that strives to maximize the recovery in your claim.
Contact Studinski Law, LLC at (715) 343-2850 to start building your case at a free consultation. Our law firm has offices in Marshfield and Plover, and we serve clients in Wisconsin Rapids, Wausau, Stevens Point, and throughout Wisconsin.