Getting Your Probationary License in the Midst of COVID-19 Pandemic


Evelyn Skyberg Greer

Graphic created by Evelyn Skyberg Greer to represent a student being assessed during a driving lesson.

Daisy Lehman, Writer

A parent signature and completing an on-line form was all Tosa West Sophomore Travis Wagy needed to get his driver’s license in June.

“All you had to do was fill out all of the required information, and then your parents signed off on it. It was all online, it was literally just 10 minutes,” said Wagy

The State of Wisconsin initiated the Pilot Program in May of 2020, to eliminate the requirement to take a “behind the wheel” test during the COVID19 pandemic. The new program allowed students under 18 to receive a probationary license with parental permission.  Students must have held a permit for 6 months, completed mandatory amount of practice hours and have completed all of the behind the wheel lessons.

Earlier this year, Governor Tony Evers, was attempting to make the waiver a permanent thing in the state budget, however, on Tuesday, June 29th, the Wisconsin Assembly rejected the proposal of making the waiver permanent. According to the DMV, this means that the program can be cut at any time, but is most likely going to stay until the end of 2021.

“We could, you know, choose to end it at any point if we felt like there were negative impacts. The data is showing us right now that about 90% of parents of eligible new drivers are choosing to take the waiver,” said Wisconsin DMV administrator, Kristina Boardman.

The opinions of whether or not the waiver should remain intact remain similar. 

Tosa West mother, Sarah Noerenberg, allowed her child to get the waiver. “I think the waiver is a good idea because it is a way more efficient way of getting teens their licenses and it isn’t unsafe, since you’re essentially taking 6 mini tests with the lessons. In my opinion, the waiver is a great idea and the process of getting your license should be changed to just that or a choice,” said Noerenberg.

Tosa West junior, Dylan Heater concurs with her statement.

“The waiver is a good idea partly because those who really care about COVID may feel safer, and it’s good to have that option. Also, the test is a little outdated. Especially since all the steps they make you do, and everything you have to do before you actually take the test at the DMV makes you prepared. I feel like if you’re successful with that, you’re already a pretty good enough driver to not have to take a test,” said Heater.

However, West junior Jane Janiszewski did decide to take the test. 

“I believe that taking the test is a right of passage. I think that it is easy for someone’s parents to give them the right to drive since they’re their children. I feel confident when driving and I can gladly say that someone other than my parents told me that I was good enough to drive alone on roads,” said Janiszewski

In order to receive a probationary license with the waiver, a parent or guardian has to sign off on it if the person is under 18. 

“I didn’t not want my daughter to take the test, but in the beginning of January (2021), that was what was required at the time.” said a Tosa West mother who signed off on the waiver.

“I’d say they were a little concerned, but after talking with them they agreed that the test isn’t as necessary as it used to be, especially since they were learning how to drive. Also, they got to drive with me, and see how I did, which helped their decision of having me take the waiver and not the test,” Heater said, regarding his parent’s decision on allowing him to have the waiver.

“I mainly took the test because my parents made me, but I still think actually taking the test is safer. But  if my parents gave me the option to take the test or just get the waiver, I honestly would’ve just done the waiver since it’s easier,” Janiszewski states, 

In terms of safety, thoughts and opinions vary on the level of safety the actual drivers test provides. 

“I think taking the test and getting judged by someone who’s actual job is to see whether or not you can drive  is the safest idea. Obviously getting the waiver is a very easy way to get your driver’s license, just because it’s easier though doesn’t mean it’s the safest option,” said Janiszewski.

Tosa West junior, Annabelle Wooster did get the waiver this past summer,however, she is concerned that some students getting their license under the waiver may not be prepared, “It does make me somewhat nervous that not everybody may truly be ready to drive, other states have always had a waiver.” 

However, Heater thinks that getting the waiver wouldn’t be compromising safety, “The majority of the test is just neighborhood driving, and it’s not that long, and with all the steps they make you take beforehand, that prepares you pretty well. Also, the driving test doesn’t always measure how well of a driver you are, since people make stupid mistakes when they’re nervous,” said Heater

“I think the waiver was a really nice way to keep things moving during the pandemic. It definitely has the potential to be a very efficient tool, if used correctly.” says Wooster.