Motorcycle drivers who want to renew their beginner’s permit in South Carolina will now have to take a skills test. Previously, bikers could renew their permits as many times as they wanted without taking such a test.
A driver does not have to actually pass the exam to keep their permit, but must make a “legitimate attempt,” the new rules state. The state Department of Motor Vehicles announced the changes last week.
DMV executive director Kevin Shwedo says the former system was being abused by drivers who kept renewing their beginner’s permits and never attempted to pass the test required for a full license.
“We found out one individual had been operating on a beginner’s permit consistently since 1992,” he told South Carolina Radio Network. “They would just come in, renew their beginner’s permit, pay their money, and they were off on their way without any demonstration of skills.”
Shwedo says Department of Motor Vehicles research found that 36 percent of motorcycle fatalities since January 2011 have involved drivers with either a beginner’s permit or one that was expired or suspended.
The agency estimates as many as 30% of South Carolina motorcyclists don’t have a license, but simply use a beginner permit that only allows daytime driving.
Shwedo says he thinks a big reason why is that bikers with a permit get lower insurance rates.
Under the new rules, a motorcyclist who seeks a permit for the first time would not be affected. But once that permit expires a year later, the biker would have to take the skills test. If they pass the test, they receive a full license. If they fail after a “bona fide” attempt, they would get a new permit, provided the examiner believes the driver made a serious attempt.
Shwedo portrayed the problem as a safety issue, saying that officials cannot tell if drivers are capable of riding a motorcycle without the skills test.
“The riders with beginner permits aren’t doing anything criminal or unethical,” said Shwedo. “Our goal is simply to ensure that we have the most qualified drivers on the road.”