Is your baby actually old enough to drive? Been a while since you took a test, let alone THE TEST? Weeping Wailing and Gnashing of Teeth No More – Parents’ Guide to Navigating DMV
Today’s post provides some hidden truths, and suggestions, for parents about to undergo the process of negotiating DMV to obtain a Learner’s Permit.
Mind you, I am not talking about YOUR Learner’s Permit.
I am saying that by the end of it all, you probably will have some level of ownership in that Milestone of Life.
It can be a maddeningly complex and patience-testing experience, especially if you are new to the game, haven’t really kept up with the law, or your interactions with DMV have been limited to periodic on-line renewals.
I must admit, even as an experienced attorney, I sometimes think to myself when talking to clients, “Good Lord it’s gotten complicated.”
Frankly, in writing this article, these are all things I wish we had known before beginning the process of helping my child obtain her Learner’s Permit.
As a family, it was a bit rough-and-tumble getting through the process.
That may have to do with the process; on the other hand, it may have to do with being the father of a teenager.
Realize this: Things are different now.
If you are still contemplating how your baby, whom only yesterday was wearing diapers, grew up so fast, thinking about them getting behind the wheel can be a discombobulating, emotional life-event.
Think about it. What was one of your most vivid memories growing up, especially about High School?
I’d bet getting your “Temps” is in the top three.
The ER, DMV, and the morgue are great equalizers, where good or bad, we all get to be treated as an ordinary citizen. Indeed, it may be the your child’s first exposure as a semi-adult to the system.
Take a deep breath. You’ll get through it. It is a process. And it will all work out – Bill Powers
So, buckle up. There is a fair amount to know before you run down to DMV and try to get a license.
See Rule 1. Things are different now.
I think I was about 12-years-old when I started dreaming of driving.
The idea of being behind the wheel, traveling down the road, going to wherever I wanted to go, just appealed to me.
I knew the exact date upon which I could start “Driver’s Ed.”
I reminded my poor parents of the process, the classes, the prerequisites, and the costs, incessantly.
I regaled them with my plans to travel out West, maybe even to California.
Ahhh, the sweet freedom and independence a Driver’s License affords.
Cue record player scratch. Kids are not wired the same now.
Not only has the number of kids applying when first able for permits dropped, they are also waiting sometimes literally years to even apply for a learner.
Yep. While the metrics thus far regarding the cause(s) for the delay are at best conflicting, the truth is, kids seem to be non-plussed about getting a license.
That was certainly true of my teen. I was going to let her come to me first. That did not last long.
I still think it is an important step of growing up. It is a worthwhile exercise in responsibility, learning how things work, and in no small measure, patience and persistence – Bill Powers
It may also account for why so many kids do not pass on the first go-around.
Add that to a general indifference to reading instructions or gathering information in advance, and well, you have now assembled the necessary components for a decent-sized bump in the road.
Parental Stress: It Does Not Help and Could Hurt
OK, this is one the those areas I work on personally.
It is always easier to give good advice than heed it.
I’m a lawyer and as such, I tend to be a bit of an obsessive-compulsive type.
That’s just what we do as lawyers. We think about steps down the path, processes, and possibilities.
And the way I deal with worry and concern is to over-prepare, over-study, and over-estimate the difficulty of the task.
That works for me. . .not so much for my baby.
I don’t know a parent out there who wants to see their kid flounder or fail. I guess it’s possible, especially if Junior has been a bit of pill as of late around mom and dad.
But in today’s society, an era known for things like “helicopter parenting,” the trend tends to be towards enabling our kids, as opposed to allowing them to learn some difficult truths in life the hard way.
Rule 3: In North Carolina, that test ain’t all that easy. LOTS of people fail it, everyday. LOTS. So it is best to prepare for the test.
Gracious, the tears, the disappointment, the cries of “foul,” “no fair,” and the “my life is ruined,” can be troubling for parents after failing the Written Test.
If you’re like many, if not most parents, it’ll ruin your weekend.
Knowing how hard that test can be is an important first step to girding yourself for possible disappointment.
Just be armed with a big hug and patient ear.
There is a reason why it is likely, if not probable, that your weekend will be ruined:
- A substantial portion of parents take their kids to DMV on Saturday morning. Not many of us can take off work in the middle of day, let alone during a weekday. DMV does NOT take appointments on Saturdays.
- DMV is not open on Sundays. It’ll be a bit before DMV allows a re-test. Before YOU cry “foul,” consider this: It is reasonable for DMV to want to your kid to study a bit more before coming back in.
Zero Dark Thirty
Depending upon where you are in North Carolina, you may be in for quite a surprise.
That surprise is predicated on the incorrect assumption that, “It’s Saturday morning. No one will be there.”
If your kid is anything like mine, the level of reverence for Saturday morning sleep approaches that as quasi-sacred.
Get up early, way early, and head to DMV.
Chances are, there will be a few people already there, coffee in hand, waiting.
There are people at DMV whose lives and livelihoods depend upon being licensed.
Without a license, they can’t work. It’s that simple.
For that reason, they don’t mess around.
Sleep can be recovered during a nap. So getting up a zero-dark-thirty is not a big deal to those whom absolutely, positively need their license.
While you may moan and perhaps curse DMV under your breath, no amount of showing-out will help the situation.
Indeed, it really isn’t a good parenting attribute.
As such, if you plan on going on a weekend. Get up early. If you live in a big city like Charlotte, consider driving a bit to one of the smaller surrounding jurisdictions or DMV offices.
It’s the same DMV. It’s not like a voting precinct. Go wherever the line is shortest – Bill Powers
To enroll in a NC Driver’s Ed course, you must:
- Be at least 14 1/2 years old.
- Have your birth certificate or a valid passport.
- Currently be enrolled in high school and on your way to earning your high school diploma or its equivalent. You will need to obtain a Driving Eligibility Certificate from your student’s school office.
- Driver’s Education Consists of:
- Classroom instruction,consists of 30 hours of classroom time
- Behind-the-wheel instruction. 6 hours
Driver Eligibility Certificate
North Carolina, like many other states, requires certain proof of eligibility.
The intent is to require kids to stay in school.
There is an extra step or two if you Home School your child.
The Eye Exam
Prior to beginning behind-the-wheel lessons, you’ll need a Restricted Instruction Permit
The important thing to remember is that irrespective of where the safe driving training takes place, DMV must first issue the Restricted Instruction Permit to the company whom will be doing the behind-the-wheel.
This paperwork is provided by the Driver’s Education School.
The only thing DMV really fills out is the vision aspect and then signs-off.
Recognizing road signs is part of the eye examination.
Here’s What DMV Says:
Quick Tip: DMV will NOT set an Appointment for the Eye Examination, but they do not always require you to queue (stand in line) for the Eye Examination.
Study the Signs – There are Two Types
When studying a practice test is helpful, make sure not to miss the two different types of signs: Warning and Regulatory
In order to pass the eye exam, which is separate and apart from the Written Test, you have to be able to identify the signs by shape and color.
It is taken at a separate time. The eye exam is something that is handled before undertaking the 6 Hours of behind-the-wheel instruction.
As part of the eye exam, you will need to be able to explain to the DMV Examiner What Each Sign Means
Here’s How to Speed Up Process and Save You Time
Get Information First and Set An Appointment, If Possible
The North Carolina Department of Transportation / Division of Motor Vehicles DMV really works at being friendly and considerate of your time.
To that end, they have implemented some relatively new protocols to help speed things up.
One great option allows you to Set Appointments for certain matters.
DMV does NOT Set Appointments on Saturday. That truly is a bummer.
ANY TIME you plan on going to DMV, call them first – Bill Powers
Even if they have people standing in line, they will pick up the phone.
Generally speaking, and in my personal experience, DMV is great about letting parents tag along.
They’re also good about letting you know how busy things are, whether it is possible to get in, and what to do about setting an appointment, assuming that is an option at your chosen location.
Keep in mind, mid-week is the best time to go.
Get Your Documents in Order
Fair warning, they’re not going to let you slide in this area.
They will be nice; but, they will turn you away and tell you to come back another day.
Also do not expect to get to DMV 30 minutes before closing and expect to them to see you.
It is not personal. They just will not take you.
Be nice. Threatening to call your congressman, cursing, or sharing with DMV personnel your displeasure, will not help. It is a good opportunity to set a good example – Bill Powers
Got it? Just get the right forms. Be advised, that can take a some time.
The folks working at your local DMV Licensing Office do not make the laws or rules.
If you have a beef, your time would be better served calling your representative(s) in the General Assembly.
DMV Test Examiners should get hazard pay for what they endure on a daily basis.
You also may want to consider this: If you show out too much, they have no problem kicking you out and having you arrested.
DL-123 – Proof of Insurance
Any time I go to DMV, I just go ahead and call my insurance carrier and ask them to email me a new DL-123 form.
It takes about two seconds to print out a copy.
If you need it, you will save yourself a lot of heartache, angst, and wasted time.
If do not need it, at least you’ve confirmed everything is in order with your insurance policy.
Do that every time you plan on visiting DMV.
The DL-123 is a qualified Proof of Insurance Form that is only valid for thirty days from execution.
That means there is an expiration date.
While not technically listed within the Required Documents on the Department of Transportation Website, I cannot tell you how many people call and complain that they were all ready to go and did not have proof of insurance.
We email and fax a LOT of DL-123 forms to people. Just go ahead and have one at the ready.
By the way, that brings up a good point.
You will need call your Insurance Carrier first and add the new driver to your policy. GULP.
And while you are at it, increase your coverage limits for both property and casualty, while lowering your deductible.
Yes, your insurance rates will go up with a new driver on the policy. That is just part of being a parent – Bill Powers
Predicate insurance coverage, and payment of the same, on something like good grades, good attitude, or taking out the trash and doing the dishes.
Here’s another piece of free advice: Do NOT go on the cheap.
Liability for wrecks is not necessarily limited to the extent or level of insurance coverage.
There is such a thing as being under-insured.
If you have anything of value, a house, a car, or savings, protect them.
If coverage, or what lawyers call Policy Limits”are too low or insufficient to cover losses, there also is such as a thing as Personal Liability.
Also determine whether you have additional, supplemental insurance coverage under another existing policy such as an Umbrella Policy on your house.
While there is no best amount of coverage to have, there is a worst amount: Too Little
Do not go with the minimums. With a new driver, there is at least a decent possibility you will need to make a claim.
Get Your Identification in Order
You may ask, “How Do You Prove Identity If You Do Not Have an ID?”
Fortunately, North Carolina is pretty reasonable in this area.
You will need TWO forms of documentation, one of which will require Date of Birth information.
Proof of Social Security
Chances are your child does not have 1099 or W-2 Tax Forms. Frankly, you will probably be best just to have the Social Security Card or “Social Security Document” or Military Dependents Card handy.
Don’t forget, a US PASSPORT is a pretty handy form of Identification too.
NOTE: You only need ONE form of proof of Social Security.
Don’t Get Bogged Down In Too Many Details – Here’s What You Need to Know
Driver Education Course – Certificate of Completion
This is to certify that _______ completed the driver training and traffic safety course, as approved by the Superintendent of Public Instruction and conforming with the requirements of Course “Driver Education” as set forth by the Department of Public Instruction
Completion of 30 Hours of Coursework and 6 Hours of Roadwork earns you the DEC.
The Steps to Driving:
Step One: Limited Learner Permit
Step 2: Limited Provisional License
Step 3: Full Provisional License
Costs of Obtaining a License
DMV accepts Cash and Credit Cards. Personal Checks are allowed, with the following restrictions and conditions:
- Two Forms of Identification
- Written in Blue or Blank Ink
- Cannot be “Starter Checks”
- North Carolina Banks or Banks with Branches in North Carolina
North Carolina Law: Issuance of Learner’s Permit and Provisional License
What is “Driver’s Ed” Nowadays?
Back about a million years ago, when I took Driver’s Ed, my “teacher” was also the Football Coach.
That’s just how public school did it back then.
I think he also taught Health Class too. There weren’t a lot of jokes in class about the oddities of human anatomy when the instructor knew the definitions of “Chop Block,” “Take Down” and “Full Nelson.”
**For the record, Coach was actually a very nice man whom dedicated his life to helping and educating kids.
We also watched, some would say were subjected to, a rather disturbing movie called, “Blood on the Windshield.”
WARNING GRAPHIC CONTENT
While some schools still offer Driver’s Education, it has become increasingly common for kids to be instructed in the private sector.
The respective qualities of the different private Driving Schools vary greatly.
Some are organized, conscientious, and really prepare people for driving.
Others are, well, to be frank, not so good.
Ask other parents about their experiences.
Quick Tips Regarding Driver’s Ed
- Don’t Whitewash How Dangerous Driving Can Be
- Don’t Under-State How Important it is to Know the Rules of the Road
- Don’t Accept the “Oh Dad” Eye Roll when it comes to sharing YOUR knowledge and experience(s)
While the “Blood on the Windscreen” type movies are difficult to watch, as an attorney whom regularly sits next to kids in court whom have experienced personally the tragedies of traffic fatalities, I’d prefer a little more shock than ignorance.
A good friend of mine, whom happens to be one of the best prosecutors in the State of North Carolina, once described a vehicle as a, “Three Thousand Pound Weapon” that hurdles down the road at a mile a minute.
Put mildly, her word-description was both accurate and powerful. We lost that trial – Bill Powers
While this blog is intended to provide useful information in a format that affords at least a modicum of humor, take heed.
I am not kidding when I say, Scare Your Kids.
Scare the tar out of them. Share your experiences. Not to be a Debbie Downer, but it is an incredibly important and vastly understated truth.
People die on the roadways.
There is a reason why insurance premiums are higher for younger, new drivers: They are involved in the most wrecks.
This isn’t one of those times where you can be buddy-buddy with your progeny.
Ever yell, “Where did you learn to drive?”
Well, there is a truth to that.
IMHO, we don’t do enough to keep ourselves current as adults when it comes to driving, let alone make sure our kids get the absolute best education available.
There should be what pilots call re-current training.
In the legal profession, we call it CLE or Continuing Legal Education. Doctors do it too.
If your kid does not get educated correctly from the outset, they will not follow the Rules of the Road from the outset.
You cannot remember what you never learned.
We all develop bad habits when it comes to driving.
We forget things. We misremember what the law(s) are. Laws also change. Laws are not always the same from state-to-state.
So if I am going to preach a bit, I say this: Teach Your Children Well.
More Information: Student Parent Driving Contract
Nationwide DMV Written Test: Failure Statistics
The North Carolina Department of Transportation, Division of Motor Vehicles or “DMV” does not seem to publish, publicly, test results.
Over the years I have developed working relationships / friendships with DMV Officers, Hearing Officers, and others working within our system.
While they will readily tell people, for some reason we just don’t get it: The test ain’t easy.
Here’s what DMV says about the test:
As to those private driving schools, one would be wise not to assume that 90% practice test score is an accurate indicator on likelihood on passing the DMV exam.
Unless you don’t mind going to DMV more than a time or two, you’ll want to prepare more, substantially more.
Fortunately, there are some decent resources and APPS out there for NC DMV.
Start Here for Test Preparation:
- 80% or better required
- 20 Correct Answers of 25 Questions
- Instant Grading
- Submit Answer – Right / Wrong
Links to Practice Test Sites:
If you have more questions about the laws in the State of North Carolina, check out our website, blog posts, and video library.
For specific legal inquiries, feel free to contact Powers Law Firm PA for a confidential consultation.
Mr. Powers is the host of North Carolina Law Talk and regularly lectures on the Courts, Law, and Legal Policy in the State of North Carolina. If you would Bill to speak at a School Event or Parents’ Association, you may reach him at:
What Do Lawyers Do?
Each and every time I speak to someone seeking legal help, I tell them three things right off the bat:
- Everything we talk about is confidential
- We do not charge for consultation, this is on our dime
- I am just explaining the law. I’m not necessarily defending it or think it’s always fair.
There is a reason lawyers are called Attorneys and Counselors at Law. Understanding the intricacies of the law, the courts, and the legal system is but a starting point.
Understanding how to help people deal with their issues, relative to the law and possibly what they may face in Court, is where the Counseling part comes in.
Put simply, we give advice. We offer opinions. We provide guidance, as we have been down certain paths before and know what lies at the end.
And while I am an attorney, I’m also someone’s Daddy. It is easy to give sound legal advice and sometimes blunt assessments as a lawyer; not so much when it comes to a child.
Maybe that is why it helps to retain an attorney, as our beloved either cannot or will not always speak pragmatic truth. We may care for our clients and want the best for them; yet, it just is not the same.