New drivers who pass the road test could use their examination or learner’s permit as a temporary license until two months after the Motor Vehicle Commission clears its driver’s license backlog, under legislation advanced Monday by a Senate committee.

In all, the Senate Transportation Committee endorsed four bills stemming from the coronavirus pandemic, which closed MVC agencies for nearly four months and then left them swamped attempting to keep up with pent-up demand for documents and services.

The others would:

  • Extend expiring drivers' licenses and identification cards for senior citizens until Jan. 2, 2022 and limit appointment on some days at MVC locations to people with certain medical conditions.
  • Establish a “virtual check-in pilot program” in which people can reserve a spot in the queue on the MVC’s website without having to be physically at the agency, then check in from the parking lot.
  • Temporarily extend the deadline to register vehicle and obtain driver's license for new residents.

The road-test bill is sponsored by Sen. Vin Gopal, D-Monmouth.

“I have a lot of young constituents who reached out to us because they’d be able to get jobs to support their families, especially when there are transportation challenges, employment challenges,” Gopal said. “And obviously this impacts some of the more urban areas of the state, so I think it’s a no-brainer."

“We’re talking about a 60-day temporary license,” he said. “And I think government, we have a responsibility to try to make it easier for the people, not harder.”

When MVC agencies reopened in early July, among those who overwhelmed its capacity were teens who’d earned driving privileges during the pandemic but couldn’t get their licenses.

That backlog has eased a bit but hasn’t ended. The state said last week that roughly 55% of the backlog had been cleared, more than 483,000 total transactions. Gopal said that despite that progress, the bill is still needed.

“Absolutely,” Gopal said. “You never know when this can come up in the future.”

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