Five-hour driving courses now at a distance

Motor Vehicles Department-licensed driving schools can now conduct distance learning pre-licensing courses.

Due to the COVID-19 public health crisis, driving schools across the state have been unable to offer the pre-licensing course — also known as the five-hour course — to students. In order to safely meet the demand for driver training while adhering to social distancing guidelines, the state Department of Motor Vehicles has issued guidance to driving schools allowing them to conduct pre-licensing courses using established and secure technology, such as Zoom, WebEx, Go To Meeting and Skype.

“As we continue establishing a new normal it’s important to be flexible in how we administer certain services including the process for getting a driver’s license,” said Gov. Andrew Cuomo. “The pre-licensing course is critical for New Yorkers to learn how to drive safely, and allowing driving schools to teach this course remotely will allow courses to resume without risking the health and safety of those participating.”

Any DMV licensed driving school that is currently authorized to teach pre-licensing and chooses to conduct the course via distance learning technology may do so immediately under the following conditions:

¯ Schools are not required to seek approval from DMV prior to implementing the distance learning option, but they must have a valid pre-licensing endorsement to deliver courses and employ one or more qualified instructors.

¯ Courses must be delivered live, in real-time, by the school’s pre-licensing qualified instructors through video sessions. The school’s teleconferencing option must provide for interaction between instructors and students, face-to-face, just as they would in a traditional classroom, but in the virtual environment. Software or computer programs to deliver the course without a qualified instructor are not allowed.

¯ Students must pre-register and present their learners permit so the school can identify the student, ensure that the student is eligible to take the course and record the student’s information as listed on the permit. Driving schools must abide by all applicable social distancing guidelines issued by the state Department of Health and local jurisdictions, and to any operating restrictions required by New York Forward, if pre-registration is done in-person at the school’s place of business.

¯ At the time of enrollment, the school must provide the student with instructions explaining the requirements for course participation and completion, including any technology requirements of which the student must be aware.

¯ The DMV approved Pre-Licensing Course Curriculum and content must be delivered before the instructor issues the MV-278 course completion certificate. Driving schools must ensure that course completion certificates are issued only to students who have completed the course, are eligible and have been identified by the driving school at the time of enrollment and throughout the course. Upon course completion, the instructor-signed certificate will be mailed to the address on the client’s permit with instructions for the student to sign it before scheduling a DMV road test appointment.

¯ Distance learning courses will not be subject to classroom approval requirements, but the location where the instructor is presenting from must be appropriate, free of distraction and conducive to learning.

¯ The school must maintain records in accordance with regulation and, in the case of distance learning, must also maintain and record the delivery method and instructor delivering the course.

¯ The school and its instructors utilizing distance learning are responsible for preserving the safety and privacy of students and the integrity of the course within the above-listed parameters and in accordance with all laws, regulations and policies governing driving schools, driving school instructors and the pre-licensing course.

¯ Violations of law, regulation or policy, including those listed in this notice, are subject to suspension or revocation of the driving school license and instructor’s certification.

AAA Western and Central New York recently made its concern known about the lack of five-hour courses in the state because AAA Driver Training could not legally offer the course. There were at least 300 students registered through AAA and awaiting approval for classroom instruction from New York state.

“With summer a prime time for young drivers to get behind the wheel and obtain a driver’s license, we are seeing many disappointed students,” said Mike Formanowicz, manager of AAA Driver Training. “Our best advice is to wait it out and to continue to log hours of practice driving behind the wheel while taking as much online training as possible.”

Online options include defensive driving, which qualifies the driver for an insurance reduction. The online portion of AAA License To Learn program is also available and provides young drivers with a foundation before they become licensed. The License to Learn online driver education program is designed for educational benefit to young drivers, so insurance discounts are not applicable, and the five-hour course must still be completed in the future.


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