Getting driver's license tougher for teens today than in years past

Becky Campbell • May 17, 2012 at 8:43 AM

Getting a driver’s license isn’t quite as simple as it was 20 or 30 years ago.

And keeping it isn’t quite as easy, either. It’s still a rite of passage, so to speak, when a teen turns 15. That’s

the age when a person is eligible to apply for a learner’s permit.

Of course, there are a few other stipulations as well, including:

n Parental permission.

nProof of school attendance and satisfactory progress by a statement signed by the principal or guidance counselor. Also, that statement cannot be more than 30 days old.

nPass a standard vision screening.

n Pass the Class D knowledge exam. But the days of an unrestricted license when that teen turns 16 are gone forever.

In fact, there are four levels of driving privileges for teenagers, with the final occurring when they turn 18 and all restrictions on those driving privileges are removed.

The sweeping changes went into effect July 1, 2001, when Tennessee implemented the graduated driver’s license program. It consists of four steps for obtaining a full, unrestricted license: learner’s permit, intermediate restricted license, intermediate unrestricted license and regular driver’s license.

“I think it’s important for kids to take driver’s ed,” said Brandon Broyles, one of two driver’s education teachers at Daniel Boone High School.

He incorporates a textbook, the Department of Safety driver’s guidebook and guest speakers in the curriculum. And a class project gives students the experience of purchasing a car — at least on paper — and Broyles said parents have given him positive feedback for that requirement.

“They can take the permit class at school, but it’s 50 questions compared to 25 questions at the DMV (department of motor vehicles),” he said. If the student passes the 50-question test, they receive a certificate they must take to the driver’s license office to get the actual permit.

Current events can also spark classroom discussion among his students, Broyles said.

Tennessee went to a graduated license program to help reduce crashes among teens.

“Motor vehicle crashes is one of the leading causes of death among teenagers, and inexperience is one of the main contributors to those fatal crashes,” said Dayla Qualls, spokesman for the Department of Safety. “The Graduated Driver License program is designed to allow novice drivers to gradually gain behind-the-wheel experience before obtaining full licensure.”

“We hope that the components and restrictions offered through the program help reduce the risk of serious injury crashes among teens and ultimately save lives.”

After a teen obtains their permit, the next step is to obtain the intermediate restricted license. Requirements for the teen include:

n Must be at least 16 years of age.

n Must have held a valid learner’s permit for a minimum of 180 days.

n Must have 50 hours of behind the wheel driving experience, including 10 hours of night driving.

n Must have a 50-hour certification form signed by the parent, guardian or driving instructor confirming this experience.

n Must pass a road skills test.

n Must provide all other required documentation.

To move on to an intermediate unrestricted license, the teen must be 17 years old, have held the restricted license for one year and cannot have six points on their license or have been in an accident that was their fault. They also cannot have been issued more than two seat belt violations.

There are also curfews and passenger restrictions on the previous two levels. When a teen is 16 years old, they must be off the road by 11 p.m. and cannot have more than one non-family member as a passenger. At age 17, there is no curfew and they can have up to two non-family passengers in the car.

When a teen turns 18, all restrictions are removed from driving privileges.

Broyles said there is a hardship license available to residents age 14, but they must meet certain requirements in order to obtain a license and they only candrive in daylight hours.

More information about obtaining a driver’s permit or driver’s license is available at www.tn.gov.

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