DMV test-drives new technology

Users say a touch screen simplifies the driver’s test.
Wednesday, September 10, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 12:10 a.m. CDT, Sunday, July 6, 2008

Driver exams in Columbia have entered the 21st century.

People applying for a state license can now take their exams on a touch-screen computer rather than the traditional written test.

The new computers were installed Aug. 21 and have been well received by the public, according to Lisa Swafford, supervisor of the driver’s exam division.

“The younger kids especially like it because they’ve been brought up with computers,” she said.

Carly Schwandt, 15, passed the test to receive her permit and said she thinks the computer format helped.

“I don’t know about the written test, really, but I think it was easier with the pictures on the screen,” Schwandt said.

With the new test, applicants sit at a touch screen and look at questions accompanied by a picture. After each question, they press a button marked “score” and are told whether they answered the question correctly. The process takes less time on the computer.

“The test is graded as they go along, so they know exactly what they miss,” Swafford said.

The test administrators used to grade the paper tests by hand. Although written tests are still available, Swafford sees a growing preference for the computer exam. On Monday, 55 of 57 tests taken were done on the computer, leaving the last two tests for the exam officials to grade.

“It allows us to give more driving tests on the road and to answer the public’s questions,” Swafford said.

Capt. Bill Nelson of the Missouri State Highway Patrol said the state received a $500,000 grant from the federal government to implement the system.

“We are installing it currently in 17 of our five-day-a-week offices around the state because they serve the bulk of our clients,” he said. “Phase two will be for us to apply for a second grant that would allow us to implement this statewide.”

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