Growing Wait Times for Road Tests Means Big Business for Driving Schools

New data uncovered by NBC 5 shows the wait time to get a road test appointment at a driver license office is nearly three months.

The delays have frustrated many North Texas parents this summer, who had been trying to get their teens a driver’s license before school started.

This week, in fact, marks two years since a new law took effect that allows teen drivers and their parents to schedule a road test with an authorized third-party driving school.

With the Texas Department of Public Safety backlog only getting longer, it's a growing business in North Texas.

Lonnie Smith has been teaching teens how to drive for decades. He is the owner of Right Start Driving School, which has two locations in North Texas.

But only since 2015 did Smith's driving school became licensed to administer the DPS road test. Now, it's what he's known for.

"We've grown exponentially because of word of mouth," he said. "With so many high schools around here [in Carrollton], road tests are what we do every day, all day long."

Right Start Driving School has three DPS certified road test instructors. Last summer they oversaw about 225 road tests a month. This season it's up to 300 a month.

Smith says parents are increasingly frustrated by long delays to land a road test appointment at a DPS Driver License Office.

In North Texas, that wait is now 10 weeks.

"They're telling us they're frustrated. They can't get anyone to answer the phone at DPS. And even if they get someone on the phone they're telling them it's about a three-month wait," Smith said.

"Every time our phone rings here it's a parent complaining that they can't get an appointment at a DPS office. But I can get them a road test appointment within a week," he said.

Claudia Morales signed up her 16-year-old daughter for a three-week driving course and road test.

"I'm excited, but also a little nervous," Morales said.

She's also shocked that wait times at state offices are so long.

"I don't think that's acceptable. I'm a working mother, and I need to let her get to school and run her errands she needs to do, so that's awful," she said.

It's three-times more expensive to take a road test at many private driving schools than at DPS offices. DPS charges $25, but at Right Start Driving School the fee is $75.

Morales says it's worth every penny.

"I think it's the best choice. I'm a working mother, so it makes it so much easier and faster," she said. "I know she won't have to be at a [DPS] office all day waiting for the test."

Smith also says another benefit of using a private company is the ability to re-take a failed test quicker.

There are 13 DPS road test offices in between Dallas and Tarrant counties.

And there are now 18 authorized private driving schools in Dallas and Tarrant counties that can also do the road tests.

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