Column: MVD wants competent drivers too

Anytime change occurs, there will be skepticism. The Daily Courier editorial and a column by senior editor Tim Wiederaenders critical of the Arizona Department of Transportation Motor Vehicle Division’s new “Permit Test @ Home” is clearly in that category.

But the people who work for the MVD are not just implementing new ideas in a vacuum. We are consumers of our own services and we drive the same roads as everyone else. Naturally, we want well-educated, competent drivers of all ages.

“Permit Test @ Home” is just one way to educate a driver. The learning experience includes time behind the wheel with a licensed adult in the front seat. That adult has the powerful incentive of his or her own safety to ensure the teenage driver understands the rules of the road. This is of concern to the Courier, but if there are parents who don’t fully appreciate their role, a 30-minute visit to the MVD is not likely to change their outlook.

What is more likely is that with this test method, parents will be more involved. To sign in, a parent must use his or her driver’s license and Social Security numbers to establish an MVD account. When they take their teen into MVD to get the actual permit, that information will be verified. If the parent or guardian did not proctor the test, that will be obvious.

Traffic survival and defensive driving schools have used online tests for years. The Permit Test @ Home follows that concept and it gives the family time at home to study the drivers’ manual and even take online practice tests. That’s a meaningful way to learn, and once the learner is eligible for an actual license, a road test is required.

Also, the assertion that the real goal is to save tax dollars is simply wrong because there’s no financial impact. This initiative gives our customers more service options.

Finally, while reducing MVD experience time is one benefit, the Courier’s claim that excessive experience times exist because of staff shortages is wrong. First, the average experience time at the Prescott MVD has been well under 30 minutes for quite some time as the Courier reported on Sept. 17, 2017. Also, there is no staff shortage, as the state-wide division is authorized 850 full-time employees and currently has 847.

At ADOT, safety is our first priority and the vision of MVD is to get Arizona out of line and safely on the road. Our innovations will adhere to that standard.

Doug Nick is assistant communications director for Arizona Department of Transportation’s Customer Outreach.