Sunday, April 2, 2017

Teen Driving: Navigating the Permit Requirments

I wrote this when our son was 15 years, 7 months old. That means he was old enough to get his learner's permit so that he can practice driving while I practice patience. And praying. I'm sure I'll do a lot of praying while he's driving. I got my learner's permit 29 years ago and I only remember how excited I was. I don't remember the process, but I don't think it was this difficult.

We live in California (which might be part of the problem), and Drivers Education is not part of the high school curriculum. I took Drivers Ed one summer and passed all of my tests with flying colors (not surprising, I was a car lover back then, too). Now kids and parents have to find an online Drivers Ed course, complete all of the lessons, pass the test, and get an official certificate to take to the DMV to take another test to get the permit. Are you as confused as I am?



In August, I spent hours on the California Department of Motor Vehicles website reading all about teen drivers, requirements, restrictions, and risks. I just wanted to find the answer to: What does my teen do to get a learner's permit? I found the checklist, but the links still led to confusing statements. For example, how can a teen apply for their permit with "Certificate of Completion of Driver Education and Driver Training"? Don't they need the permit to take the driver training? So confusing.

I finally got the answer from our neighbor who has a daughter the same age as our son. Her instructions: Get a Groupon to get a discount on an online course; get a DMV appointment ASAP (before your child has completed an online course) because they go fast; have kid study. Thank goodness for those parents who go before us and share their knowledge!

I got the Groupon, showed our son the website, he set up his account, and I left him to it. I didn't offer any help other than offering to quiz him if he wanted me to. I tried to set up his DMV appointment to get the permit but again couldn't decipher the language on the DMV website. My husband accused me of thinking too hard and therefore making it more difficult than it need be. He set up an appointment for October 27th after school. Our son did all the reading, watched the videos, took the chapter quizzes, and passed the online test on the second try at 8:00 PM on October 26th. He was so excited. And then he got the confirmation email from the testing website that said he should call the DMV to make an appointment once he receives his official completion certificate in the mail. What now? They're going to mail us a certificate? We can't just print it out and take it to the DMV and get his damn permit? That part wasn't clearly explained to us.

So we're waiting for the certificate. We also have to get an official form from the DMV (via mail or by going to the DMV in person to pick it up because printed off the website is not acceptable) and both parents have to sign it. And we have to locate his Social Security card and birth certificate, as well as show proof of good oral hygiene and have a California State flag autographed by Arnold Schwarzenegger. Good grief.

Each of our united states has different requirements. I found a chart on the IIHS website that is helpful for ages and some restrictions but won't give you all the details. You'll need to go to your state's DMV website or ask an experienced neighbor. Keep in mind that the laws do change and they may not be the same as when you got your license.

So here's what I learned:

  1. Find a Groupon or other discount coupon for online driver's education (unless your child's school offers classes).
  2. Learn to navigate your state's DMV website.
  3. Make an appointment for your child to take the permit test at the DMV. Put some thought into this date.  (In California it's a test about the laws and signs.)
  4. Get your child set up with online drivers ed course. Give them a solid deadline to finish and pass the test at least two weeks before their DMV appointment to allow for the certificate to be mailed to you.
  5. Gather all required documents, signatures, and certificates to take to DMV appointment.
  6. Set up a swear jar and find a lucky totem to carry with you at all times.
Best of luck to us all!


He'd rather be fishing. So would I.



(c) 2010-2017 Erika J.N. Fish. All Rights Reserved.

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