20,000 Georgia Teens Who Skipped Road Test Are Now Licensed Drivers

Even when properly tested, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens aged 16 to 19.

byChris Teague|
20,000 Georgia Teens Who Skipped Road Test Are Now Licensed Drivers

Last month, we reported on Georgia's decision to drop the road test requirement for getting a new driver's license. Now, we have data on exactly how many untested new drivers there are on Georgia roads, and the result is, to say the least, a bit unsettling. 

According to the state’s Department of Driver Services, the Peach State has issued nearly 20,000 driving licenses to teens without the requirement of passing a driving test—in just the last two weeks. To be precise, 19,483 of these "freedom passes" were handed out with not much more than a parent's word that the kid is ready to hit the road and has put in enough hours on their state-issued permit.

Susan Sports, a spokeswoman for the GA Department of Driver Services, told The New York Times that “there have been 19,483 teens who upgraded their permit to a provisional driver’s license with the consent of their parent or responsible adult.” The relaxed licensing process doesn’t mean that there’s no preparation involved at all, because teens still have to pass the state’s education requirements, which include 40 hours of supervised training behind the wheel. 

Some Georgians aren’t happy with the decision to suspend the road test and have started a petition to convince Governor Kemp to reverse his decision. Taking the word of a parent, even an honest one, isn’t quite the same as having a trained state employee administer a driving test. A better solution might be to issue temporary licenses to be re-evaluated after things improve, or even better yet, stop issuing licenses altogether while people are still getting sick. California has extended the expiration dates on existing learner’s permits but has suspended road tests.

The New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission, for example, has suspended all road tests and is currently “'not considering' granting licenses without a test at this time," according to the NYT.

Let's not forget that Georgia decided to give the go-ahead and open several businesses to the public even when numbers of infected residents were unclear, and some claim even climbing. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for American teenagers and the risk of a crash is highest among drivers 16 to 19 than in any other age group.

If that's how most teens who have passed full-on licensing tests perform, what can be expected from those who haven't? Of course, we all know a teenager responsible enough to handle an SRT Viper better than a grown-up, but should that mean giving them a chance without the proper testing?

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