Hank Investigates: Road Test Rejections

(WHDH) — Sarah really wanted her driver’s license, so she practiced and practiced in the family car on the streets of Barnstable. She could parallel park, she could back up 50 feet, she knew all the hand signals.

Sarah: “I felt so confident for that test. I was definitely ready.”

But before Sarah could turn the ignition for her driver’s test, the Mass RMV put on the brakes. She was all set for the test, but her family car wasn’t!

Leigh: “I was surprised, I didn’t have any idea.”

Here’s why–though the family car works perfectly, and passed inspection, the emergency brake is right here, the kind you push with your foot. But Massachusetts RMV requirements say: to take the driver’s test, you must have a car with a “centrally located parking brake.” Leigh had to find a different car to use–and fast.

Leigh: “$100 we paid extra to borrow the driving school’s vehicle.”

And our investigation of registry stats from across the state show each year thousands of wanna-be drivers have the cars they brought to use in the test rejected before the test even begins.

Hank: So someone could be a perfectly good driver, but be rejected for the car?
Maureen Barry, Henry’s Everett Auto School: “Exactly.”
Hank: “What do you think about this.”
Barry: “I’m sure they’re very frustrated.”

The RMV guidebook and website does say, pretty clearly, the cars must only have center console brakes.
And that backing sensors, back-up cameras and automatic parallel parking must be turned off or disabled for the road test.

But it seems like the message is not getting through! Our analysis of road test records found the number of equipment rejections keeps going up—and it now happens on average almost 12 times a day!

Hank: “So what happens if they bring the wrong car?”
Barry: “They are turned away.”
Hank: “So someone could come in with a brand new car with the proper inspection and still be rejected?”
Barry: “Yes.”

The RMV wouldn’t talk on camera, but told us computer assisted gizmos like back-up cameras would not truly show driving skills and abilities. And that an “accessible parking brake” is “so the examiner can make an emergency stop.”

Maureen Barry, who’s been teaching driving for 20 years, says she’s certainly done that.

Barry: “It’s scary. People hit the wrong pedal, they steer the wrong direction, and just floor it.”

Our investigation found Massachusetts is the only New England state that has such strict equipment requirements: Rhode Island, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine officials tell us backup cameras don’t have to be disabled for their tests. Rhode Island requres a centerally located brake, the others don’t care what kind of emergency brake you have, it’s just got to work.

Leigh: “I do think the rules in Massachusetts need to change,.”

What are the chances they will change they will change? When We asked the registry all they would say is that they’re always monitoring their policies for safety. If you want to see the rules, here’s a link:

RMV Road Manual:

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