Aspiring Minnesota drivers who need to take their written test must make an appointment as exam stations will stop accepting walk-ups next week, according to changes announced Wednesday by the Department of Vehicle Services (DVS).
The change taking effect Monday comes as the 14 stations statewide have been overwhelmed with test takers who have waited in lines for hours without any assurance of getting in.
The DVS will open its online scheduling calendar at drive.mn.gov on Friday.
“There is a high demand for knowledge tests, because DVS exam stations were closed for eight weeks,” DVS Director Emma Corrie said. “People have had to adjust their lives and schedules in order to arrive at exam stations early to try to take the knowledge test. We want to make things easier for Minnesotans and reduce the time they need to spend at exam stations.”
That’s welcome news for Gina Byron of Minneapolis, who at the end of June was turned away from one full testing station and waited in line for seven hours at another so her 15-year-old son could take his test. She was successful the second time.
“I think the scheduling will be helpful,” she said.
But she also wonders if that means her other son will have to wait weeks to take the test.
“That could be terrible,” Byron said. “Why can’t they outsource it to driving schools? You took driving school, why go to another location to take the test? The whole thing has been so frustrating.”
Would-be drivers must pass the permit test before they can legally begin practice driving, a requirement before they can schedule a road test.
Drivers looking to take their behind-the-wheel test have been forced to wait weeks as the DVS tries to catch up on the 13,000 road tests canceled because of the coronavirus.
Exam stations shut down in mid-March as part of Gov. Tim Walz’s stay-at-home order to slow the spread of COVID-19. They reopened May 19, but the DVS estimates it was unable to give 50,000 tests while stations were closed.
The DVS has administered 39,594 written tests since reopening. Last year, DVS gave more than 282,300 written tests.
About 790 test appointments will be offered each day, but the number of slots available at exam stations will vary because of social distancing requirements and other COVID-19 precautions.
To meet demand, the DVS is working to set up a temporary space at its downtown St. Paul exam station to give an additional 300 tests per day.
Testing for those seeking a commercial or motorcycle license will continue to be offered on a first-come, first-served basis, the DVS said.
All test takers will undergo a wellness screening before being allowed into the building. They also will be required to wear a face covering, said Megan Leonard, a DVS spokeswoman.
Leonard also reminds new drivers to bring a check, cash or money order to pay the $15.50 instruction permit fee. If a driver fails the first two attempts, an additional $10 fee is assessed for subsequent knowledge tests.