PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ Getting your drivers permit feels like a rite of passage for most teens, but the coronavirus pandemic put that on hold for many in Rhode Island who were trying to complete driver’s ed.
Bud Craddock, the administrator of the Rhode Island Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) tells Eyewitness News that in mid-March, driver’s ed courses and permit tests at the Community College of Rhode Island (CCRI) were paused because of the pandemic, which created a backlog.
CCRI spokesperson Amy Kempe said the school did stop issuing the test back in March due to the pandemic, but was able to begin offering them again after meeting the safety standards set by the Rhode Island Department of Health.
Kempe said in April, CCRI created a way for students to take the drivers ed course online which allowed them to access the curriculum virtually as opposed to attending in-person.
“I believe that there were about 24,000 students who had taken the class online and were waiting to take the permit test at CCRI,” Kempe said.
Last month, Kempe said 989 students registered to take the exam at CCRI. Craddock tells Eyewitness News the Cranston location saw an uptick for permit tests during the time CCRI halted its testing.
“It was a perfect storm, with CCRI closed and our limited capacity, and because of the space restrictions it created the backlog,” Craddock said.
Craddock said before the pandemic, they were able to process 70 permit tests per day, but when they were forced to limit their capacity, they were only able to take eight applicants at a time.
“The key that came down to it is that we had to protect our customers and our staff,” he said. “We had to follow the Department of Health rules and those mandates.”
Earlier this month, Target 12 reported that the DMV would alleviate the high demand by making adjustments to its operations.
Craddock said they recently transformed one of the waiting areas into a temporary testing space for permits.
“We were doing about 35 a day, now we’re up to about 110 a day,” he said.
Craddock said the DMV is still screening people for COVID-19 symptoms at the front door. He said once someone enters the testing area, they’re directed to a testing station with a red card on the seat.
When they’re done with the test, Craddock said they’ll need to leave that card on the desk to let one of the porters know that area needs to be cleaned for the next person to use.
Kempe said CCRI will also add more permit testing times on nights and weekends, and Craddock said between the DMV capacity increase and CCRI adding more time slots, this will help to decrease the backlog.