BELLINGHAM - People seeking a driver's license will need to contact an approved, private agency to set up the knowledge and skills tests, because the state is bowing out of giving them locally.
Starting Saturday, Dec. 1, the testing in many locations across the state, including Bellingham, is being outsourced to state-approved businesses.
People who have already scheduled a driver's test with the state Department of Licensing office in Bellingham will still have their tests at the local office. Everyone else will need to go through one of the approved businesses or go to a DOL office where the tests are still offered.
So far, two driving schools in Whatcom County with four local offices have been approved to offer the testing:
- EXCELeration Driving School, 1308 Meador Ave., Suite C-8, Bellingham, 360-305-9731, or 111 Third St., Lynden, 360-305-7208.
- Nelson Driving School, 2300 James St., No. 203, Bellingham, or 102 Grover St., No. 206, Lynden. Phone for both is 360-354-8777.
More locations may be added. Check dol.wa.gov/driverslicense/testing.html for an updated list. (The proper link currently says it's only for King County, but it lists all affected counties once you click on it.)
The schools are allowed to set their own fees for the tests.
Once people pass the tests at the local school, they will still need to go to a DOL office to get their license. There is an application fee for that.
The changes are being made at the direction of the Legislature in hope of reducing wait times at DOL offices.
"We started this program in King County and it has gone smoothly," DOL Director Alan Haight said in a press release. "Now driver training schools in many other areas of the state are ready to conduct drive tests, which will remove one of the most time-consuming transactions from our offices. We think this is going to speed things up for other customers who must come into an office."
Driver knowledge and skills tests will no longer be offered in these other DOL offices: Friday Harbor, Everett, Greenwood, Smokey Point, Renton, Federal Way, Lacey, Parkland, Centralia, Vancouver East, Vancouver North, Kennewick, Chelan, Ellensburg, Wenatchee, Davenport, Newport and Spokane.
Reach DEBBIE TOWNSEND at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 715-2280.