We'll wait for outcome on outsourcing drivers' tests

September 25, 2012 

The state is making an effort to save some money. It's hard to fault them for that. In this case, they are going to outsource the test to get a driver's license -- both the written and driving portions.

It sounds like a good idea for teens, but we have a few concerns about the adults.

One important byproduct of the move will be to save people time. The waiting time at most Department of Licensing offices can be long. (We recommend bringing the Tri-City Herald with you. On some days, you'll have time to read the whole paper and do the puzzles while you wait.)

The new process should save time for people using the DOL services, but we are a little skeptical about the extra trip to a driving school and back to the DOL.

Less waiting time, more travel time.

For example, you will have to go to the DOL to start the process. Then you have to go to a driving school to take the tests. Then you have to go back to the DOL to get your photo taken and the license issued.

For students taking drivers' education classes though, it seems like a good deal. Kids already go to the driving school and take tests as part of their course work.

By the time they're ready to take the official written and driving tests, they are "comfortable," or they should be, with their surroundings.

The other concern we have is the potential for unscrupulous businesses to fail would-be drivers just so they will have to retake the test, increasing the company's revenue.

We know most people are honest, but when it comes to profit, strange things sometimes happen.

We expect the state will provide enough oversight to protect drivers from any unethical actions.

And we're not excited about the possibility of the cost going up. Getting a license is already a spendy proposition -- especially for new drivers.

Despite our concerns, we are willing to withhold judgment until we see the process in action.

While the new method might not save the driver any money, it may well save the state some cash, and we all have a keen interest in the state budget.

In theory, the state retains control of the driver's licensing process and administers that control in a different and, we hope, more efficient way.

The state is taking a smart approach, rolling out the new program in manageable pieces before a statewide launch.

Motorcycle training schools began knowledge and skills testing Aug. 1. On Oct. 1, driving schools in King County will be doing the testing for other drivers.

We plan to re-evaluate this move after the state and driver's education schools have a chance to work out the bugs. The idea holds promise, but success will depend on how it's implemented.

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