Would-be Carroll County drivers will have to show off a bit more skill during driver's licensing tests in the near future when the Motor Vehicle Administration in Westminster adds a driving on roads section to the test.
"We believe that this will give a true assessment of an individual's ability to operate a motor vehicle," said MVA spokesman Buel Young.
The MVA plans to have the new noncommercial license tests at each of its locations by October, but no date has been set for Westminster.
"It was piloted at a couple of branches a couple of years ago, then it was moved to a few more branches, then we decided to make it statewide," Young said. "They have to plot the course at each location."
The new test is already being administered at the MVA's Essex, Largo and White Oak locations.
Local driving instructors said the change is a step in the right direction, but they have some concerns about it.
Rusty Moore, owner of Greg's Driving School, which has locations in Mount Airy, Hampstead and Westminster, is concerned that the MVA doesn't have the resources to handle what may be a longer test and is worried about instructors going out on the road in cars without passenger brakes, like his schools' cars have.
"I can see the MVA instructors being a little nervous about it, going out on the roads. They're kind of taking a risk," he said. "It's kind of dangerous for them to go out there with no controls."
Moore didn't expect his driving instructors to change their routines very much.
Melissa Bryan, an instructor at Greg's Driving School, said the school prepares its students for driving on the road. She said the change in the test may single out those who lie on paperwork.
"There's too many students who aren't getting the driving hours required by law," she said. "That way, the MVA knows who can drive and who can't drive."
The law requires that drivers with a learner's permits complete 60 hours of driving with a mentor before trying to get their license.
Cassie Haga, a student of Greg's Driving School who was practicing parking with Bryan Tuesday, isn't nervous about the changes to the test.
"I think it's better, because you'll get more experience on the road with real people rather than just on the course," she said.
Bud Hammerbacher, owner of The Driving School of Westminster, said his students will be prepared for the test. But he would just like to know what the route is so he can give students a heads-up.
"I stress to the students that you're not only driving for you, you're driving for everybody on the road," he said.
Gene D'Onofrio Sr., owner of 3A Method Driving School in Mount Airy, thinks it's a good idea to test drivers on the road since, in addition to the 60 hours required by law, drivers get another six hours with driver's education instructors.
"If they can't drive on the road after nine months and 66 hours, someone should stop them," he said.
D'Onofrio, president of the Driver's Education Association of Maryland, has been in meetings with the MVA in which the change has been discussed. The way it will be set up makes sense, he said.
"First, they'll do some maneuvers on the course, so instructors will have an idea of how much as person has control over a car rather than just telling them to go drive out on the highway," he said.
Reach staff writer Marc Shapiro at 410-857-7890 or firstname.lastname@example.org