Learning to drive for the first time can be overwhelming. A mountain of paperwork, months of practice and one final make-or-break test stand between you and your treasure: the license.
At Christian Brothers Automotive, we want your first-time driving experience to be as smooth and headache-free as possible. That's why we have created the First-Time Driver series. To help teens (and their parents) navigate this new life step, we've developed 10 important lessons for first-time drivers.
Today's lesson is on the single most exciting – and intimidating – part of the entire process. Actually acquiring the drivers' license.
Here are Christian Brothers Automotive's 6 steps to obtaining your first license.
1. Satisfy the prerequisites
Regardless of the state, there will be legal prerequisites to taking the driving test and securing your license. These requirements often include:
- Completing a driver's education program
- Applying for and receiving a learner's permit
- Completing a certain number of supervised practice hours
While the specific requirements vary from state to state, there will be a standard to meet before taking the driving test. At least 6 months prior to your 16th birthday, research your state's requirements and get all your ducks in a row. Don’t be left without a license the day you come of age.
2. Pass the test
Next is the tough part – passing the test. While the exact format may vary between states, most require a certain score on both a written and a physical driving test. You can typically take the written test after about 6 full hours of drivers' education. During the DMV written test, you will be asked questions to test your knowledge of road signs, traffic laws and rules for safe driving. Find your state's test handbook for practice questions and traffic laws specific to your state.
Once drivers' education is complete, you can take the driving part of the test. Depending on your state, you may complete this portion with a certified driving instructor or be required to test with a state trooper at the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). The examiner will ask you to follow a series of driving instructions which test your skill behind the wheel.
3. Be prepared
On the day of the test, be sure to bring proper identification, proof of your social security number, proof of legal residency and school enrollment (when required), a legal guardian and payment for any fees. Trust me when I say there is nothing worse than showing up at the DMV, standing in line for an hour and finally reaching the attendant – only to realize you left a vital form sitting on the kitchen counter. Check and double-check to ensure you have everything you need before heading out for the test.
4. Get to the DMV
You've done it! Class is finished, tests are passed and it's finally your 16th birthday. Time to get that license! Depending on the state, it may be referred to as the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), Motor Vehicle Division (MVD), Department of Public Safety (DPS), Motor Vehicle Agency (MVA), Department of Revenue (DOR), or the Secretary of State (SOS) office. Do your research before the day of so you know exactly where to go.
If you have not passed either the written or driving portion of the exam, you will be required to do so on-site before you may obtain your license. Bring the documentation and payment we've discussed and make sure you're looking picture-ready. Remember, this photo will be on your license for at least a year!
5. Follow the rules
If you are under the age of 18, most states will not grant full license immediately. Instead, they give a 6 month provisional license. This is a probationary period to make sure you're comfortable driving without a parent or guardian's supervision. Make sure to follow all guidelines and restrictions.
It would feel terrible to finally achieve the freedom of a license, only to have the privilege revoked because you did not follow all rules. The laws vary by state, but often include a restriction on the hours you may drive per day, a limit on the number of passengers and the distance you may drive outside your county.
6. Limit your passengers
Regardless of provisional status, it's a good idea to limit the number of passengers when first securing your license. Every person added to the car is an extra distraction during the drive. You know how much fun it can be to chat with friends, but this fun can quickly become dangerous when you're not fully comfortable behind the wheel.
Of course it's important to follow all laws and state legislated restrictions. If you follow the rules of safe driving and practice common sense, your first legal drive can be an incredible experience. With Christian Brothers Automotive's 6 steps to obtaining your license, we hope you'll easily navigate this new freedom.