KSLA INVESTIGATES: OMV gets own policy wrong, denies free taxpayer service

Louisiana OMV gets its own policy wrong, denies free taxpayer service

BOSSIER CITY, La. (KSLA) - Having to make a stop at the Office of Motor Vehicles (OMV) can be a frustrating hassle for many drivers across Louisiana.

However, for Jeffrey Giffin, his gripe has nothing to do with prolonged lines — he just wants a straight answer.

“I think people need to know about this,” Giffin said. “It was ridiculous, absurd.”

The reason: in mid-May, Giffin said his niece was denied a road test at the Bossier OMV.

“Why aren’t they providing the testing when it says online they schedule the testing?” Giffin stated.

In Louisiana, new drivers take drivers education in high school or through a private driving school — that’s what Giffin’s niece did. When it came time for Giffin’s niece to get her license, she chose to take the test through the OMV — but her plan came to a screeching halt when she was unexpectedly turned away.

“She was told the reason they wouldn’t schedule the road test is they [OMV] received complaints from local driving academies,” Giffin said.

That complaint, according to Giffin: some new drivers were choosing to take the road test at the Bossier OMV, rather than through a private driving school.

“They were taking business away from them,” Giffin said.

In Louisiana, taking a road test through the OMV is a free taxpayer service. But, private academies can charge new drivers upwards of $40 for the same exam.

So, each time a driver chooses to take the road test through the OMV, private driving schools miss out on cash.

Frustrated his niece was turned away, Giffin took matters into his own hands and attempted to call the Bossier OMV; but, no one answered.

Giffin took another step and emailed the state office in Baton Rouge. However, their response was just as confusing: “go to a local driving academy and take the test.”

That’s when he reached out to KSLA Investigates to get answers.

KSLA asked the state if drivers were intentionally turned away at the Bossier OMV and sent to private driving schools to take the road test.

In an email, the state denied Giffin’s allegations. However, the state admitted road testing stopped for private driving academy students due to a “misinterpretation of state policy."

And Bossier wasn’t the only OMV misreading that policy.

KSLA’s questions to the state resulted in the OMV learning since February 2015 “all applicants that attended drivers education in Louisiana being rejected for skills testing.”

Which means for the past 4 years, a countless number of new drivers were forced to pay upwards of $40 for a test at a private academy, when the state should have offered it for free.

But, Giffin isn’t buying into the state’s explanation.

“I think that’s a bureaucratic response and I would have a hard time believing that,” he said. “I think after four years someone would have said something about it.”

After KSLA pressed the state for information, the following clarification was disseminated to OMVs state-wide:

Applicants who are eligible for road skills testing may either test at OMV or a Third Party Tester. Those requesting to have a road skills test performed at OMV are not to be rejected. If the office is unable to accommodate the applicant that day, the office may schedule an appointment for the skills testing to be completed provided the test is administered in a reasonable amount of time. If the applicant does not wish to schedule an appointment, they are to be notified that the test may be administered by a Third Party Tester.
Office of Motor Vehicles

The “misinterpreted” policy was also re-written and is in the process of being approved, so new drivers from private schools are no longer denied driving tests at the OMV.

Copyright 2019 KSLA. All rights reserved.