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Report: Online driver's test program rife with cheating

ALBANY — A program to help people obtain driver's permits during the COVID-19 pandemic by taking tests online may be rife with cheating, according to a published report.

State motor vehicle workers told the Albany Times-Union that thousands of people may have taken advantage of the program instituted more than a year ago by former Gov. Andrew Cuomo as in-person testing was curtailed or became backlogged.

Applicants sometimes have others take the tests for them, and in other cases complete them with perfect scores in less than seven minutes, workers said. The 50-question test normally takes about 45 minutes to an hour, they said.

In response, officials at seven state-run motor vehicle offices recently began keeping track of how many people who passed the online tests later had issues regarding images captured during the test.

They found that over a four-day period, 464 out of more than 1,500 people who had passed the online test and came to a motor vehicle office to get their permit had verification issues. Of those, more than 50 people left rather than retake the test, and roughly half of the 410 who retook the test failed, according to the Times-Union.

"They sit down for 20 questions and they're sitting there for 45 minutes and they can't finish the test," Rensselaer County Clerk Frank Merola told the newspaper. "We had a guy the other day, he was there in the first photo and then he was not there in next three. He passed (the online test) in like six or seven minutes. Of course, we didn't issue the permit."

In the last few years, there have been changes to the rules and laws around the test that barred DMV offices from storing personal info for more than six months and lowered security thresholds for verifying a person's identity. Some workers said that contributed to the problem.

Recently, the DMV instituted a process that requires the image of the applicant to be captured four times, including at the beginning and end of the test. When the applicant comes to an office to get a permit, DMV clerks compare the images with the person in front of them.

"DMV continuously monitors data about our transactions in order to ensure the integrity and security of the online permit test," Tim O'Brien, a state DMV spokesman, told the newspaper.

Copyright 2021 WXXI News. To see more, visit WXXI News.