25 Investigates: Delays, inconsistency at RMV driving test sites

BOSTON — Long waits, canceled tests, and inconsistent treatment still face many who go to Registry of Motor Vehicle locations around Massachusetts with the hope of taking a driving test and getting their license, 25 Investigates found.

A review of more than 230,000 road test results from RMV sites since January 2017 revealed significant differences in the rates at which examiners give drivers a passing grade.

Nearly three-quarters of drivers who took their road test at RMV locations in Worcester and Fall River passed their exams, but other sites including Lowell and Watertown only passed a little more than 50 percent of drivers.

Long Waits and Frustration

"I just watched one person after another, after another, after another fail," said Julie Robinson.

She says her daughter received driver training education, but still failed her road test at the RMV in Southbridge with little explanation from the examiner.

"She just hands my daughter the piece of paper and gets out of the car and it just says 'fail,'" said Robinson.

Others tell 25 Investigates they're still waiting for a chance to take their driving test. Owen Bradley and his mother drove an hour from their home in Hopkinton to take the test at the same location in Southbridge, but were turned away after being told they did not properly schedule their appointment online.

"Basically, they said there was stuff that we missed," said Kristin Bradley. "They said there's nothing they can do, so now he has to wait another month to get his road test... It's extremely frustrating, especially when they've been waiting."

Examiner Shortage Continues

Data reviewed by 25 Investigates found the RMV location in Southbridge passes about 68 percent of drivers who take their test there, but the same data shows those who take their road test at private driving schools around the state have by far the best chance of passing.

"You have a very high pass rating for the students who take a driver education program," said Agganis Driving School owner Chris Agganis.

People pay extra to take the road test on Saturdays at Agganis and other schools -- sometimes as much $150 to $175.

Agganis says your chances of passing can come down to which examiner you get and not just which location you choose to take the test.

But Agganis also says there's another factor affecting many drivers who fail.

"The majority of the time, they've waited two, three, four months to take the driver's (test). It's happened to some of our students who've waited," said Agganis. "The Registry does not have enough examiners to meet the demand."

RMV Response

Boston 25 News first reported a backlog of driving tests affecting driving schools and customers in August 2017, but a year later the RMV reports having 44 full time road test examiners which is only 3 more than what the Registry said it had at the same time a year ago.

"We're hiring more examiners now and once we have those examiners on board, we'll continue to evaluate our service delivery," Registrar Erin Deveney told investigative reporter Eric Rasmussen late Friday.

The RMV says it's in the process of adding three more examiners who will work in Braintree, Wilmington, and Lawrence. The agency is also requiring anyone who fails a test to wait at least two weeks before they can take another test. It says that policy is designed to cut down on the wait for first time test takers.

When asked why road test results fluctuate so widely from one RMV location to the next, Deveney placed the responsibility largely on the customers.

"Customers are a factor," said Deveney. "All of our examiners that we hire -- they're all required to take and pass a professional driving instructor course... It should be noted that we have customers from all across the state who pick locations."

The RMV also says locations with higher pass rates may also have a larger number of customers who have already received driver education.