Many Washington licensing offices have stopped offering driver skills tests.
Some Vancouver residents were surprised to learn they could not take their driver skills tests at the Washington Department of Licensing's Vancouver North and Vancouver East offices, two of 19 branches that are now referring people pursuing their first driver's license to private companies for the tests.
It is part of a statewide plan to reduce wait times at licensing offices, said Christine Anthony, a spokeswoman for the department.
The first offices to stop offering first-time tests were in King County.
"The average wait time in our Kent office when from 18 minutes in 2011 down to 11 minutes," she said. The wait time in the West Seattle office decrease from 29 minutes to 19 minutes after the switch.
The private driver's education companies can set their own fees for driving tests. Anthony said many already offer education packages that include classes and the test for one fee. She guesses it will be more convenient for some drivers like teenagers that have to go to drive training schools anyway to receive driver education.
"It cuts down on the number of trips they have to make to the licensing office."
Driver tests that were scheduled with licensing offices before the change will still be performed but Anthony said, sooner or later, most licensing offices will not offer testing unless someone is required to re-take the test, "maybe if someone's ability to drive has been challenged and they need to prove they can still drive safely."
Click here to learn more about the testing process and which state offices no longer offer the tests.