Road tests for Alaska driver’s licenses may soon be available again at the Kodiak Island State of Alaska Division of Motor Vehicles office, but in a socially distanced format.
Road tests were canceled earlier this year after the DMV realized that social distancing between examiners and test-takers was not possible.
The new road tests will allow for social distancing through the use of satellite navigation devices and wireless cameras.
After successful pilot programs were conducted in Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau and Palmer, the Alaska DMV has begun to source equipment for offices around the state, Jenna Wright, the deputy director of the state’s DMV, said in an email.
“The procurement process took longer than expected but we have satellite navigation devices for all offices, including Kodiak, and confirmation that the cameras are on their way,” she said. “As soon as we receive the cameras, we are going to provide training and dedicate more time than normal to road tests so that we can work through this process.”
Wright said she hopes the program will be available by October.
As part of pandemic-related restrictions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the DMV also changed its scheduling policy to prohibit walk-ins at its offices. For now, appointments must be made online before visiting a DMV office.
“We found that we could not adequately maintain social-distancing protections for Alaskans in our spaces given the volume of public traffic we had,” Wright said.
Through the appointment system, the DMV can control the number of people in the lobbies and bathrooms at any given time, she said.
“We're pleased to report that customer satisfaction ratings have increased and Alaskans are finding that appointments are a much more efficient and convenient way to work with the DMV as compared to the alternative of waiting in long summer lines,” she said.
While customer satisfaction might have increased in other parts of the state, Kodiak’s office was short staffed for most of the summer. Many local residents took to Facebook to complain and ask for help in making appointments.
Wright said the Kodiak DMV office typically employs two people but was down to just one staff member for the majority of the summer after one employee resigned.
The DMV recently hired a new employee who is now processing customers.
“Now that the new employee is processing, we have opened up appointments for her, and Kodiak residents can get an appointment within three business days by going to Alaska.gov/DMV,” Wright said. “We appreciate the community's patience during this resource shortage.”
The DMV has also pushed back the deadline for acquiring a REAL ID, a new form of identification that will be required to board national commercial flights and enter federal facilities. The deadline has been pushed back one year to Oct. 1, 2021.