As Texas driver license offices wait to reopen following the COVID-19 shutdown, third party testing centers have been filling in the gap, welcoming more than usual prospective drivers — from near and far — in need of a road test.

“On May 1, they allowed the third party testing centers to start opening up just to do the road test for people,” said Angela Roberts, who owns and operates 3rd Party Drive Testing Center (East Texas Driving School) in Marshall and Longview. “We were able to open because of that; so that helped people to go ahead and take their test and get their driver’s license, especially the teenagers.”

“Age 16 to 17-year-olds, we definitely can do those tests because they already have a driver’s permit and they already have the Class B restrictions,” she continued.

“It’s definitely well needed,” she said of the early reopening of the third party drive testing centers while DPS offices remain closed.

All Texas driver license offices closed in March as a result of Gov. Gregg Abbott’s proclamation, declaring a state of disaster for all counties due to COVID-19 and in cooperation with state and local governments to help reduce the community spread of the virus.

On Thursday, May 21, Gov. Greg Abbott along with the Department of Public Safety announced a phased reopening of driver license offices with limited services being offered, starting May 26.

Roberts said people have come from as far away as Dallas and Texarkana for her third party testing centers’ services since the driver license offices have been closed.

“I think Texarkana is our number one fan….because they don’t want to wait,” said Roberts. “They’re ready to test in this area, and we can do it. We do charge a ($50) fee in order to do it.”

She said the demand at her Longview location, at this time, has been huge. Parents especially like the benefit of their teen being able to get their license without going to a state office if they take the road test at a third party site.

“We’re doing everything by email and mail,” Roberts said of third party sites.

Once they pass the road test, all students have to do is mail a $10 money order along with their driver’s application, and copy of the child driver’s permit to the Department of Public Safety in Austin, in order to receive their driver’s license.

“They’re going to email you a temporary copy of your license; then they’ll send you a hard copy,” said Roberts. “It’s real simple.”

“They’ve even lowered the cost on that. It used to be $16. Now they’re saying send in $10. They waived the VOE (Verification of Enrollment and Attendance) forms. They don’t need those at all. “

“All they need is the completion certificate DE-964 (Driver Education Certificate Order Form) and (Impact) video that’s required,” she said.

Safety measures

In light of the coronavirus outbreak, the testing centers have put measures in place to keep everyone safe.

“We’re only allowing four people at-a-time in the building for testing,” Roberts informed. “We have to have social distancing right now. We have to do the six-feet distance and everyone has to have a mask on.”

“And because people like to bring family members, we’re only allowing one parent and the child to come in the building,” she added. “If you’re an adult and you want to take the test, you have to bring just yourself.”

To help celebrate the students’ feat, Roberts said her facilities are engaging in TikTok videos, which have become the trendiest social media craze at the forefront of the coronavirus quarantine.

“We love to celebrate our customers, so now TikTok is a big thing, so we do a lot of tick-tocking and cheering,” she said. “We try to make it fun, but at the same time, everyone has to understand that driving is serious.

“Just because you come and pay $50, you still have to have the requirements. With the $50 we give you 30 days to come and retest without charging you,” she said.

Both the Marshall and Longview locations accept walk-ins, she said. No appointment is necessary.

“We have all the instructions there for them to do,” said Roberts.

Hours of operation

The Marshall location, which is located inside Marshall Collision Center at 222 East End Blvd. S., is open from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday and Tuesday. Hours of operation at the Longview location at 2810 Bill Owens Road (Suite 201) is noon to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Friday. The school is open at 2:30 p.m. on Saturdays for anyone wanting to take the road test in Marshall.

“It’s first come, first serve,” Roberts said of the Saturday road test schedule.

“For adults that want to get the written test out the way with a six-hour course, they can come to us Saturdays 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. in Marshall,” she said.

“What happens is when the DPS office opens back up, they can tell them they want a driver’s permit, come the exact same day, and we’ll give them the road test to give them the license,” she explained. “We get questions all the time on why they have to get a driver’s permit. With a third party testing center, you get a driver’s permit so the insurance can cover you and me in the car.”

Roberts said she always like to give her students pointers when they come to her centers for the driving tests, especially teenagers. She always advises parents to let them practice parallel parking before they come and make sure they know how to proceed at intersections.

“That’s the number one mistake teens make,” said Roberts.

Also, “when they’re on the road test, you’ve got to go the speed limit,” said Roberts. “You cannot go 10 miles under. We can only allow you five-miles under.”

And because it’s a road test, she advises to calm down, focus and relax.

“They have to realize our job is very dangerous, so people have to keep in mind we want safe drivers on the road,” said Roberts. “We still have guidelines they must go by to still pass the test.”

Roberts said no appointments are necessary at the facilities. She encourages students to take advantage of third party testing centers to fulfill their immediate drive testing needs.

“Come to ‘Ms. Angela’s’ driver’s license schools to get your road test done,” she encouraged. “While corona got everything shutdown, you can get your road test done.

“DPS offices are closed. We can do your driving test, so you can get your driver’s license through email and the mail,” she said.

For more information, call (903) 934-1073 or visit her website at 3rdpartytests.comor email thirdparty@yahoo.com or visit Ms. Angela Driver’s License School Facebook page.