Demystifying the DMV

Jenny Peery, Staff Writer

North junior Mason McNierney was very nervous to take his driver’s test. He had trouble getting all his documents together and had to endure the DMV procedures. However, once he got in the car, he felt more confident. Since he was prepared, McNierney passed.

Though a rite of passage, taking the behind the wheel driver’s test is a daunting task for many teens. They may be unsure of what to expect, unaware of what to bring and uncertain of how to prepare.

The best way to prepare for the driver’s test is to practice driving. Driver’s education teachers report seeing improvement in students who practice every day.

The students should be sure they are comfortable with all the driving skills,” North division chair for PE/health & driver education Lynette Bayer said. “Get as much driving practice as you can before the test.” 

According to the WiseDriving website, it is also helpful to get to know the driving test routes before taking the test, “so you can get used to them and understand traffic levels and speed control at different times of the day.” 

The day of the test, revisit theory questions to be reminded of what to do in certain situations. It is also important to eat something and wear comfortable, unrestrictive clothing to improve performance. Finally, Bayer says one should simply “breathe and be confident.”

In Illinois, driver’s tests cannot be scheduled; they are walk in only. Because of this, the student should get to the testing site early to wait in line. McNierney, who got his license at the Naperville DMV in March, reported waiting 2.5 hours..

“With COVID, you can expect long lines,” North driver education teacher Jim Walter said. “I have heard of some who have waited for as little as a half hour and others have waited for 2-3 hours. It all depends on the time of day and the location of the DMV.”

When going to the DMV, it is important to bring the right documents, including an original driving permit, original birth certificate, original Social Security card, 50 hour log sheet, proof of car insurance and two forms of address. 

“Make sure you have everything before getting in line,” said North junior Julianna Pezan, who recently got her license. “Some people had to leave the line after standing there because they didn’t have the right stuff.”

At the front doors, an employee will ask the reason for the visit and check for a learner’s permit and car insurance. 

“Next, they had me go to a short line to take my picture,” Pezan said. “After that, I was directed to a counter where they reviewed my documents and filled out some paperwork.”

If everything is in order, the applicant will be asked to pull their car around to the front in a specified location. The Department of Motor Vehicles requires applicants to provide their own automobiles and be accompanied by a licensed driver.

An examiner will come out, and the behind-the-wheel test can begin. The test consists of different skills learned in drivers-ed, but what specifically is on the test depends on location. 

“The on-the-road test is made up of multiple items, including starts, stops, turns, uphill/downhill parking, 2pt and 3pt turns, backing in a straight line and backing around the corner, lane changes and general speed control and lane positioning,” Walter said.

Students who went to the Naperville DMV reported only driving around a nearby neighborhood and being asked about uphill/downhill parking.

“She quizzed me on uphill parking and I told her to go up, up, and away from the curb,” McNierney said. “The test was a lot easier than I thought it would be.”

The road test is typically 10-15 minutes long. “It will go by quickly, so take your time,”
A YoGov website editor said. “Every minute counts, and you’ll think and perform better if you don’t rush.” 

Once the test is finished, the driver and the examiner return to the DMV parking lot, where the student is told their score and if they passed or failed. Those who pass are given a temporary copy of their license until the permanent one arrives in the mail.

“I got the real license about two weeks later,” Pezan said. 

Those who fail should continue to practice. They are advised to retake the test when feeling more confident and ready. 

“The more a student drives at home, the more prepared for the test they will be,” Walter said. “The student that practices will be the student who passes.”

Students most often flunk their driving test because of nerves which cause them to fail to recall the important skills they have learned. Thus, it is important to remain calm and relaxed during the test. If the student is apprehensive, Bayer recommends deep breathing exercises to calm down.

“If you are really nervous and anxious about the test, maybe what you need to do is get more practice in the car,” Bayer said. “The more confident and comfortable driving the car, the better you may perform on the driving test at the DMV.”

Walter also has a final piece of advice for student drivers.

“Have a positive attitude going into your test and don’t rush through what is asked of you,” Walter said. “Take your time and have fun with it.”