How has COVID-19 affected renewing your driver’s license?

COVID-19 has changed every aspect of our lives from how we work to how we spend our spare time. It forever changed milestones for graduating high school and college students. Even national sports were interrupted by the global pandemic. COVID-19 also made the process of getting or renewing a driver’s license more challenging.

Many states are recognizing the difficulty faced by drivers with expiring permits and licenses. To ease the stress and burden, many are extending deadlines, creating online alternatives to in-person testing and registration and even waving as road tests.

Let’s take a look at some of the changes and how they affect the process of getting a driver’s license or renewing one that you already have.

What Are the Biggest Changes to Driver’s License Process?

The changes experienced by new drivers depends on the state they live in. Changes go beyond wearing face masks and social distancing. Each state has handled the COVID-19 crisis differently. Since each one has its own protocol, you can go to the state DOT or DMV website to catch up on the latest changes affecting your area. Below we provide an overview of how getting or renewing a license has changed due to the global pandemic.


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Logging Driving Time

To log practice hours, teens would need to run essentials errands for months in succession to meet their state’s requirement. Currently, many road tests are on hold until the crisis passes.

In states with lockdown orders, logging driving time can be difficult. Minnesota has waived the road test requirement until the crisis passes. However, the state reserves the right to test drivers after the crisis has passed.

Permit and Renewal Due Date Extensions

In Tennessee, learner’s permit and driver’s license renewal dates have been extended until the crisis abates. Other states have adopted this policy too. Drivers can continue to drive on expired permits and licenses. The extensions include the deadlines for completing road tests if they haven’t resumed in your state.

Appointments Often Required

DMV COVID-19 changes make it even more difficult to get into the DMV without an appointment. Before the pandemic, you would probably wait for hours. These days, it’s best to make an appointment online if you have to take tests in person. However, most states now offer the knowledge test online.

Office Hours and Services Available May Be Limited

Check online to see if the service you need is available without going to a DOT or DMV office in person. If you do have to go to the facility, read through the requirements for PPE and social distancing to properly prepare.

Revised Road-testing Procedures

After originally waiving the road test for teens, Georgia rolled back to conducting modified road tests. Many states have adapted their road test procedure as well. The administrator never sits in the vehicle in Georgia, for example. Instead, a licensed parent sits in the passenger seat during the test as an administrator watches. Students still perform the same maneuvers, typically on a closed course, and receive scores just like in a regular test.

Other states are also using this method. Some states have resumed regular testing with the administrators and drivers wearing masks and rolling down at least two windows.

Before scheduling a road test, find out the procedure in your state so that you can be fully prepared.

Wisconsin Waives Road Tests for Teen Drivers

Wisconsin has waived the road test requirement. Teen drivers must meet the following requirements to qualify for the waiver:

  • Completed drivers education course
  • Taken a behind the wheel course
  • Logged 30 hours of supervised driver
  • Had their learner’s permit for 6 months
  • Not failed a previous road test
  • No violations

The state may retest the drivers after the pandemic.

In Texas, qualified drivers can take their test through a third-party provider instead of through a DPS agent. In North Carolina, teens with learner’s permits may receive a road test waiver. To find out if your state offers modified or waived road testing, contact your local DVM.

Defensive Driving Courses

Getting a driver’s license for the first time is nerve-wracking enough. With limited DMV appointments and all the other pressures related to the global pandemic, you should do everything you can to be ready for the road. While some states are waiving the road test altogether, it’s more important than ever to develop the skills needed to be an effective driver.

If it’s been a while since you’ve taken your driver’s education course, a defensive driving course can help you handle whatever comes your way on the road. It can also lower your insurance premiums.

Have REALID Requirements Changed?

The REAL ID Act sets security standards for issuing licenses and it prohibits federal agencies from settling for drivers licenses that do not meet the standards of the Act. This includes entering nuclear power plants, getting on board federally regulated aircraft, and entering federal facilities.

The Department of Homeland Security has extended the deadline for REAL ID enforcement deadline which was October 1, 2020. currently, there is a 1- month delay on enforcing the new standards, giving individuals until October 1, 2021 to obtain their REAL ID.

How Long Will This Last?

Changes to the driver’s license process may last until the pandemic abates. Many states have extended expiration dates for temporary licenses. However, changes across the country and a return to normal operations will probably happen on a state by state basis. So, if you have upcoming expirations for your driver’s license or learner’s permit, check back with your DMV on a regular basis to make sure that you are in compliance.

The DMV in most states is encouraging drivers to use online DMV services whenever possible. You can also attend a defensive driving course online to sharpen your skills once you hit the road. Online defensive driving courses are convenient and can lower your insurance by as much as 10%. Completing the courses gives you added confidence in a time when you have limited on-road driving opportunities.