For the last 40 years, Jessica Waldorf's family has owned Right Way Driving Center. Based in Colonie, Waldorf's business offers a personal touch for students.
“The conversations that they have during the course are very meaningful,” Waldorf said. “In most classes we have someone who has had a DWI come into class and tell their story, and it's very impactful and very emotional for these students, and that's not something you would get in an online class.”
But that could change if Governor Andrew Cuomo approves a bill creating a pilot program for the five-hour course to be taken online.
“Online technology is far from perfect. There haven't been any studies to show this is as safe and as effective as the classroom course,” Waldorf said.
Waldorf worries an online test could lead to dangerous conditions on the road and little guarantee students are learning anything before they take their final exam behind the wheel.
“Online if they have to take a test, they can take it numerous times until they pass it and there's no guarantee that the person who is taking the class is not texting their friends, playing video games or under the influence of drugs or alcohol while they're watching the course online,” Waldorf said.
The bill's supporters say the measure will be more convenient to many prospective drivers. The internet-based test will allow the Department of Motor Vehicles to better monitor the activity of online providers and course participants. But Waldorf says the in-classroom test is far more effective.
“We get teenagers in here in the beginning think they know exactly what they're doing and then once they get in with a trained and certified instructor, find out the things they were doing are quite dangerous,” Waldorf said.
The governor could act on the bill as early as this week.