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7 On Your Side: Undercover at the DMV

7 On Your Side: Undercover at the DMV (ABC7)

With backlogs up to three months for driving tests, DC residents face delays, unique vehicle restrictions and questionable additional expenses at the Department of Motor Vehicles Testing center.

TWO CHOICES AT DMV: WAIT OR PAY

DC resident Stefan Hagerup took his 16-year-old daughter in for a required driving test for licensing this summer. They came prepared, bringing a car with a required middle parking brake. Unlike Maryland and Virginia, DC prohibits testing on vehicles with a parking brake on the left side below the steering wheel. Hagerup recalled what happened when he took his daughter in for a test, only to be told their car was rejected for testing because of a tire pressure warning light, "The first option was we could wait for three months and come back and take the test again. Looking over at my 16-year-old daughter, that did not go over very well. The second option, I was told, was there were rental vehicles outside of the parking lot we could use to take the test."

Hagerup paid the quoted price of $60 cash to a driving school operator in the DMV parking lot for his daughter to take the test.

"The DMV employees were in a position to offer up services of a rental vehicle company and yet there was no paperwork that documented the transaction,” replied Hagerup who said he never was offered a receipt.

UNDERCOVER AT THE DMV

Curious about the oversight and tax accounting of these cash businesses, 7 On Your Side went undercover, observing transactions at the DC DMV.

Three times, 7 On Your Side observed drivers renting vehicles – handing cash – and not receiving any paper record of a receipt. Undercover, we asked one of the customers whether she was ever offered a receipt. The woman laughed and replied “no.”

7 On Your Side also witnessed cash trading among different driving school operators. No efforts were observed of one driving school competing against another by offering competitive prices. The cost for a car rental was a flat $60 charge, an amount verbally confirmed by at least three driving school operators doing business at the testing center on 1205 Brentwood Ave, NE Washington. 7 On Your Side is not naming the driving schools observed not handing receipts since they are not charged with any crime.

Driving school operators did defend their practices on camera to 7 On Your Side when approached.

"They should ask for and get receipts. Yes," said Azubuike Nwaolu of Ike Driving School. He added an assurance that all customers are given receipts. "This is my first year, however, those receipts serve as a record for the tax."

REDUCING THE BACKLOG

“This is sort of like an opportunistic cottage industry,” said Ward 3 councilmember Mary Cheh on the city’s transportation committee. “We have a systemic problem, and that is, we need a new site. That site that we use is really cramped.”

Cheh added the DMV Director reports adding publicly-funded driving testers would not help since the size of the current building is too small to accommodate the current demand. The DC DMV declined to go on camera.

The DC DMV reported to Councilmember Cheh that efforts are underway to find a new testing facility location. Construction of that facility is not yet scheduled and may not be complete for a few years.

Virginia and Maryland test drivers far differently. In Maryland, the MVA backlog often is as low as three days. In Virginia, the average backlog is three weeks. In DC, three months is cited as the wait to get a test appointment.

Both Maryland and Virginia have far fewer disqualifiers to use your own car such as a middle parking brake. Maryland doesn't allow car rentals for tests while Virginia regulates car rentals to require paperwork and receipts.

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