TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - When you’re a teenager longing for a little bit of freedom, nothing beats getting your driver’s license. But like other things, COVID-19 has many East Texas drivers waiting longer than they ever expected.
“It is going to take a lot longer for this part of life to be accomplished. And that is teen driver’s education," said an East Texas driving instructor.
At Mr. D’s Driving Center in Tyler and Kilgore, things are busier than usual.
“We had six weeks of absolutely no work, and since we came back on May 1, we’ve been really busy," said owner Roy Dudley.
Dudley said with DPS offices closed across the state, more and more drivers are coming to his centers for road tests.
“We’re getting all of the road tests from DPS, plus the normal ones that would usually come to us," he said.
A limited number of third-party testing sites has new drivers from places as far away as Dallas and Galveston coming to East Texas.
The good news for those taking the road test at these sites is that they can get their license without going to a state office.
“The DPS is allowing, once they pass the road test, for students to submit paperwork through the mail and get their license through the mail without having to wait on license offices to reopen," Dudley said.
But for drivers who don’t even have a permit, they’ll have wait for the green light from state offices.
“These students that are eligible to take drivers education and get their permit, they’re having to wait on that permit, and that’s delaying them even more because once they get that permit they have to hold it for a minimum of six months," Dudley said.
Back in Mr. D’s Tyler classroom, seats are spaced out and classes are smaller than usual, not because demand is down, but to keep students and instructors safe.
“We normally can accommodate 25 to 30 students in this class very comfortably, but now as you see the chairs are very far apart, and we’re only accommodating nine students at this time," said the manager of the Tyler driving center.
“That’s probably going to be a new norm: that we won’t be able to host classes that large,” Dudley said.
And while some parents may see online courses as the easiest option, Mr. D said step on the breaks.
“I think it’s easy to look at that from a convenience and a cost aspect, but really driving is not something that you want to put into that category," Dudley
And while you can’t do everything online, DPS says you can do these things:
- Renew your license
- Change your address
- Replace lost or stolen cards
The state is also readying a new appointment system that will allow you make an appointment online before going to the office. This will become active when DPS offices reopen across the state. There is no word on when that will happen, according to DPS officials.
Information from Texas DPS:
DRIVER LICENSE OFFICE CLOSURES Effective Thursday, March 19, 2020, DL offices across the state have been closed until further notice. The temporary closure does not apply to individuals seeking an initial CDL. A number of DL offices across the state are designated as CDL sites – these offices will offer CDL testing by appointment only. If you already have a CDL skills test scheduled, that appointment remains valid. For those needing to schedule a CDL test, you can schedule an appointment by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name, DL number, date of birth, telephone number, email address and your preferred office location in your request.
DRIVER LICENSE EXTENSION In accordance with section 418.016 of the Texas Government Code, the Office of the Governor approved DPS' request to suspend provisions of the Texas Transportation Code to the extent necessary to delay the expiration of Texas DL/CDL/ID/EIC cards. This means that if your Texas DL/CDL/ID/EIC card expires on or after March 13, 2020, it falls under the period that encompasses the State of Disaster Declaration related to COVID-19 and will remain valid for 60 days after which time DPS issues public notice that the extension period for this disaster declaration has been lifted.
It's important to note that this extension applies to the expiration date only. A person who is not eligible to drive due to an active enforcement action (suspension, revocation or denial) may use the card for identity purposes only.
DPS is communicating with law enforcement agencies across the state to notify and inform them about the changes and what the extension means for their interactions with the public.
ONLINE SERVICES AVAILABLE FOR TEXANS The majority of customers who come into Texas DL offices (for example, 3.2 million people in Fiscal Year 2019) don't have to. These customers can actually conduct their transaction online, by phone or by mail. DPS encourages Texans to check the expiration date on their card and call 1-866-DL-RENEW (1-886-357-3639) or visit Texas.gov to see if you're eligible to conduct your transaction online, particularly in light of the closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The fee is the same for online, in-person and telephone renewals. For additional information about renewing your DL or ID card, visit the DPS website. Address changes and replacement of a lost DL or ID can also be taken care of online (or by mail) in many instances. Find out if you are eligible for online services by visiting Texas.gov.