National Safety Commission, a Florida company that previously provided online driver license testing, would like to see the State bring that program back in the future. Online driver license testing for first time Florida drivers was terminated on December 31st, 2010, after the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) determined that the program should be discontinued.
Tom Bishop, representing National Safety Commission, presented an argument in favor of reinstating the online testing program before the Florida Senate Subcommittee on Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development Appropriations on February 10, 2011. During his presentation, Mr. Bishop suggested that the online testing program, which ran from 2004 to 2010, contributed to the decrease in teen fatalities and crashes among Florida’s youthful driver population.
Mr. Bishop also noted that it was likely the online testing program had a financial impact on the State’s administration of the driver licensing program, since driver license examiners would not have to take time away from other duties to proctor a test for an applicant who had already completed his or her test online. Another positive aspect of the online testing program, according to Mr. Bishop, was that it caused many parents to become directly involved with overseeing the testing process instead of relegating this responsibility to a State employee.
One of the main reasons given for the cancellation of the program was that a DHSMV study found that students who took their test online and were retested later at the driver license office achieved lower scores during the retest than students who took their test as part of a driver education program. Mr. Bishop suggested that the State’s study was flawed because it did not use a control group and did not retest a large enough sample of the students who originally took their Class E test online.
Julie Jones, Executive Director of DHSMV, also spoke before the Senate subcommittee on this topic. Ms. Jones noted that during the six years in which the online testing pilot program was in operation, DHSMV had asked test providers to improve security measures that would prevent students from being able to cheat on the online test. Despite the inclusion of increased measures such as an affidavit signed by parents stating that they had proctored the exam, the State still decided to cancel the program in June 2010. Ms. Jones noted that even with all of the added security measures, she still could not be certain that students were taking the online exam without assistance.
The Senate subcommittee members listened attentively to both sides and asked many questions about various aspects of the online testing program, as well as the Florida teen crash statistics that were provided by Mr. Bishop and Ms. Jones. Opinion appeared to be divided as to whether the online program should be reinstated. Senator Gaetz concluded the discussion by stating that the committee could review the matter further if a bill is introduced to bring back the online testing program.
Update: Since the writing of this blog post, the Florida DHSMV is once again allowing for private companies to offer a Florida driver license test online for first time drivers. Prospective drivers must pass both the road signs and road rules tests before they can go to the Driver License office to receive their license, which can now be taken online. If you fail to pass one or both of these tests in 3 tries, users are required to take a course in person at the driver license office.