Oregon teens get break, avoid state driving test

MEDFORD, Ore. — A growing number of Southern Oregon teenagers getting ready for their driver’s licenses are avoiding the dreaded 15-minute state driving test.

Instead, they are taking advantage of a break the Legislature has granted and completing a state-approved driver-education program.

Southern Oregon driving-education programs report a jump in enrollments since the provision went into effect in January, the Medford Mail Tribune reported.

Under the provision, if an applicant is 15 to 17 and has a provisional, Class C instruction permit, 50 hours of adult-supervised driving experience and a passing grade in a state-certified driver education class, the applicant don’t have to take the 15-minute, $9 state road test.

But the applicant still must take the state’s written exam.

Teenagers who don’t take a driver-education class must log 100 hours behind the wheel and take both tests.

Southern Oregon Driver Education Inc. has seen a 50 percent increase in enrollment over last year, said Helen Jones, operations manager. At the Rogue Community College’s driver education program, enrollment is up nearly 30 percent, coordinator Kenneth Jones said.

The program’s road test lasts 20 to 30 minutes, Jones said.

“We have specific mapped-out routes, and there are certain skills we observe,” he said. “There are 130 things we observe during the test, and to pass, they must get above 80 percent.”

Skills include changing lanes, signaling, adhering to traffic laws and driving on the freeway, which is not part of the state road test.

It doesn’t make sense to retest teens who already have been tested, said David House, spokesman for Oregon Driver and Motor Vehicle Services. “Their driving test is equivalent to or exceeds our driving test,” he said.

A federal government study showed teenage drivers who receive formal training are less likely to crash than those trained by a parent.

Kenneth Jones cited other advantages: Taking a driver-education class also lowers insurance premiums, decreases the likelihood of traffic incidents and increases life expectancy as “traffic collisions are the No. 1 killer of teens in America.”

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