Driver testing to be conducted outside DOL across the state

November 27, 2012

OLYMPIA— On December 1, the Department of Licensing will expand a new program allowing driver training schools and school district driver training programs across the state to conduct driver knowledge and skills testing for new driver license applicants.

“We started this program in King County and it has gone smoothly,” said DOL Director Alan Haight. “Now driver training schools in many other areas of the state are ready to conduct drive tests, which will remove one of the most time-consuming transactions from our offices. We think this is going to speed things up for other customers who must come into an office.”

As of December 1, driver knowledge and skills tests will no longer be offered in the following licensing service offices: Bellingham, Friday Harbor, Everett, Greenwood, Smokey Point, Renton, Federal Way, Lacey, Parkland, Centralia, Vancouver East, Vancouver North, Kennewick, Chelan, Ellensburg, Wenatchee, Davenport, Newport, and Spokane.

Previously scheduled drive tests will be honored in these offices. The Department of Licensing will continue to offer tests in areas that don’t have driver training schools nearby that offer testing.

To conduct driver tests, driver training schools must be licensed with the state or be part of a state-certified public school driver training program. They have to apply for the authority to administer driver testing, and are subject to audits and record checks.

After passing the tests, customers will go to a licensing office to obtain their license. Customers are still required to pay the driver license application fee to DOL. Driver training schools will set the fee they charge for the tests.

The program is the final phase of implementing House Bill 1635, which gives the Department authority to contract with private driver training schools, school districts and motorcycle training schools to conduct some knowledge and skills tests. The bill was passed in an effort to reduce wait times in licensing service offices.

For a list of state-approved driver training schools, go to: http://www.dol.wa.gov/driverslicense/testing.html.


Consumers should watch for flood-damaged vehicles

November 20, 2012
 
Thousands of vehicles damaged by the recent hurricane-related flooding on the east coast may find their way into the garages of unsuspecting consumers all across the nation in coming months.
 
While it is not yet known exactly how many vehicles were damaged or destroyed by the flooding caused by Hurricane Sandy, the number is expected to be very high. Many of these vehicles are expected to move from state to state as they are cleaned up and offered for sale at auto auctions, used car dealerships, and even by private parties. 
 
After being cleaned up, these vehicles may look like any other vehicle. However, there are significant mechanical, safety and health risks associated with flood-damaged vehicles.
 
Due to the high number of vehicles suffering damage, it is possible some of them will enter Washington and be offered for sale here, Department of Licensing Director Alan Haight said. And because dealers may not be aware of a vehicle’s past, consumers must protect themselves, he added.
 
“When purchasing a used car, consumers should always carefully examine and test drive a vehicle,” Haight said. “They also should have it inspected by a mechanic they trust and avoid any seller who refuses to allow an independent inspection.”
 
Dirty floodwater can cause rust and damage major mechanical parts like engines and transmissions. The water also damages electrical systems especially onboard computers that are often located at low points in vehicles, like under seats. Salt water is particularly damaging to the sensitive electronics in modern vehicles.
 
These tips can help to spot potential flood-damaged vehicles:
 
  • Before buying any used car, always get a pre-purchase inspection by a trusted mechanic. The extra cost may save money in the long run if major problems are discovered.
  • Ask to see the title of a used car. Check the date and place of transfer to see if the car came from a flood-damaged state and if the title is stamped “salvage.”
  • Use an online vehicle history tracking service like Carfax.com to get more information about a vehicle’s past.
  • Check all gauges on the dashboard to make sure they are accurate, and to look for signs of water.
  • Test the lights, windshield wipers, turn signals, cigarette lighter, radio, heater and air conditioner several times to make sure they work. Also, flex some wires under the dash to see if they bend or crack, since wet wires become brittle upon drying and can crack or fail at any time.
  • Check the trunk, glove compartment, and beneath the seats and dash for signs of mud, rust or water damage.
  • Look for discolored, faded or stained upholstery and carpeting. Carpeting that has been replaced may fit too loosely or may not match the interior color.
  • Check for a well-defined line, or watermark, and for musty odors resulting from mildew.
  • If the car’s history seems suspicious, ask the seller if the car has been damaged by floodwater. Get the answer in writing on the bill of sale.