Drivers' testing lines persist, but MN officials say COVID-19 backlog going down

People wait in line to sign up to take their driving knowledge test.
People wait in line to sign up to take their driving knowledge test at the Eagan test site for Minnesota Driver and Vehicle Services on Friday. The DVS system is working through backlogs while trying to maintain social distancing guidelines.
Peter Cox | MPR News

If you have to take a Minnesota driving knowledge test, bring a lawn chair and a good book. The state Driver and Vehicle Services continues to work through a big backlog of license renewals and tests.

When those centers began opening up in late May, DVS also had to maintain proper health guidelines. Customers take tests at every third terminal in order to maintain distance. They’ve reduced testing sites across the state to 14.

DVS Director Emma Corrie said the agency is about 75 percent through the license tests that had to be canceled when the offices were closed.

Corrie said the DVS offices were averaging about 550 tests a day last summer, but in the last week averaged 707 tests per day.

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“We are doing at least a third more with this model of the consolidation to 14 locations than we were doing last summer,” she said.

People wait in line to sign up to take their driving knowledge test.
People maintain social distance while waiting to sign up for their driving knowledge test at the Minnesota Driver and Vehicle Services' Eagan test site.
Peter Cox | MPR News

Charlie Griffiths of Minneapolis sat in a lawn chair at the DVS location in Eagan. He said his daughter was making a second attempt to get a permit test. His wife woke up early to get her in line. 

“We took two different shifts. My wife opted for the earlier shift. I got the latter,” Griffiths said.

Keisha Pachan brought her 16-year-old daughter, Prestige, in for a driving test Thursday morning. She’d booked the test a month and a half ago.

“It was actually pretty quick. You know, we pulled up and waited maybe like five minutes. They took her out for a test. That took about what? Ten minutes came back, [they] said that she passed,” Pachan said. “And then they sent us a text message, said she can come up and we're just waiting on her to go in now to pay the fee.“

Prestige Pachan said the only real difference was that both she and the driving proctor had to wear masks.

Mauri Rodriguez took his place in line at the Eagan test site on Wednesday around 7 a.m. They take the first 120 or so people.

“I came here and I got cut off with about five people in front of me,” he said.

The next day, he woke up earlier and got to the test site. He passed the time with a friend in their car. 

“I waited for about an hour and a half just waiting, seeing if I got my chance to come in and take my tests or not,” Rodriguez said. “And I was fortunate enough to get here early enough where I didn't get cut off.”

Griffiths, the father waiting for his daughter’s permit test, said it’s not as easy as it was before COVID-19, but the system works. He appreciates the office staff.

“It's not pleasant for anyone, least of all for them. I wish people would wear masks when they talk to them.”

Corrie of the DVS said they are working on ways to make the waiting for tests more convenient. She said the DVS has asked the Legislature to approve the option of online driving knowledge tests.