How to Get a Florida Learner’s Permit
December 5, 2008
So, you’re fifteen years old and ready to get your Florida Learner’s Permit. Congratulations! You are about to take the first step towards increased freedom and independence – but along with that comes increased responsibility. You’ll need to follow certain steps to get your learner’s permit. Here’s how to make the process as smooth as possible.
First, try to plan ahead. Many new drivers want to get their regular driver’s licenses as soon as they turn 16, but you need to have held a learner’s license for at least one year without any traffic convictions before you apply for your operator’s license.
When you go to the DMV, you’ll need appropriate identification. You’ll also need a certificate of completion for the Traffic Law and Substance Abuse Education course. Your parent or legal guardian will need to sign a consent form. Then you’ll be ready to take the written test!
The written test consists of 20 questions about road rules and 20 questions about road signs. You must answer 15 out of 20 questions correctly to pass each test. Then you’ll take a vision test and a hearing test right there at the DMV.
Once you earn your learner’s permit, you must comply with certain restrictions to keep it. You can never drive alone with a learner’s permit, no matter how old you are. You may only drive during daylight hours during the first three months and until 10 p.m. thereafter, always with a licensed driver who is at least 21 years old and occupies the front passenger seat.
You’ll need to follow all traffic laws carefully, both to develop safe driving habits and to avoid further restrictions. If you receive a moving traffic conviction while you have a learner’s license, the one-year period you are required to hold your learner’s license will be extended for one year from the date of the conviction or until you are 18 years old, whichever happens first.
If you receive six points on your driving record within a 12-month period, your driving privileges are automatically restricted to business purposes only for 12 months or until you are 18, whichever happens first. If you receive additional points during this restricted period, the restriction is extended 90 days for each additional point.
In addition, drivers under the age of 21 with a blood alcohol level of .02% or more will have their license immediately suspended for six months. This administrative action is for a first offense; a second offense will result in a one-year suspension. Refusal to submit to testing results in a suspension of twelve months for a first offense and eighteen months for a second offense.
If you are truant in your school attendance, your driving privilege will be suspended until you provide proof you have attended school for 30 consecutive days.
As you can see, once you get your learner’s permit, you’ll need to drive very safely to keep it and to earn your operator’s license. Taking this responsibility seriously will go a long way towards earning your place in society as a trustworthy adult.
Why You Should Take a Practice Permit Test Course
December 4, 2008
When teens are asked why they want their driver’s licenses, they often answer, “for freedom and independence.” But even getting a permit can be difficult, and if you don’t comply with certain restrictions on your permit and license, the freedom and independence you wanted so much and worked so hard for can quickly disappear. That’s why skimming the handbook and memorizing a few facts that are quickly forgotten as soon as you pass your written test is not a good use of your time. You should take a practice permit test course, and you can do so online, from the comfort of your home.
It is difficult to learn enough from the handbook to pass the written test at the driver’s license office. Simply reading the handbook is not enough. It is almost impossible for anyone, even your parents, to anticipate every type of question that might be asked on the test. The questions on the written test are typically pulled from a database of over 500 questions. Every test is random, so talking to your friends about what their tests were like won’t help you. And questions on the test are written with the assumption that you understand the entire handbook, so knowing just a few parts of the handbook well won’t be sufficient for you to achieve the minimum passing score on the test, which is usually 80%.
A practice permit test course helps you pass the written test because it replicates the experience of taking the test at the driver’s license office. Often, people are surprised when they take an online written test because they realize how little they remember even after reading the handbook. You don’t want that surprise when you’re already at the driver’s license office! Many states charge you a fee and make you wait several days to retake the test if you fail. That means you have to get your parent or guardian to make the trip all over again. With an online practice course, you can take tests as many times as it takes to feel totally comfortable with the material. Some courses even offer a guarantee that you will pass your test at the driver’s license office after passing the practice tests a certain number of times.
But an online DMV practice permit test course does more than help you pass the written test to get your learner’s permit. It helps you remember information that will help you keep your driver’s license and make you a safer driver. For example, many states now have graduated licensing programs that specify a variety of laws for new drivers, including curfew hours. If you don’t know those laws, you won’t follow them – and not following them could mean losing your permit or license. And of course, if you don’t know and follow the rules of the road, you could get tickets or worse, have a crash that results in property damage, injury or death. Even worse than losing your license would be causing harm to someone else, perhaps one of your friends, or losing your own life.
Hopefully, you’ll have your driver’s license for many years. Why not invest in it so you’ll have a smooth start?
Help… My Teenager Drives Like a 70-Year-Old!
November 21, 2008
That will be the cry of parents everywhere if they do not enforce state laws – or their own house rules – prohibiting their teens from talking on a cellular telephone while driving.
Research published by the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society (HFES) says that talking on a cell phone turns the reaction time of the average 20-year-old driver into that of a 70-year-old. Researchers observed study participants on four simulated 10-mile trips lasting 10 minutes each. Participants talked on a cell phone during half of the trips and drove without talking for the other half. Hands-free cell phones were used for the study. The results of the study indicated that young drivers were 18% slower in braking response time and took 17% longer to regain the speed they lost while braking when they were using the cell phone.
The difference seems small but is significant – an extra fraction of a second could mean the difference between life and death in an emergency situation.
Young drivers (the term typically refers to drivers under the age of 21) need to know that the fast reflexes and excellent coordination they take for granted can easily be compromised when they submit to the lure of using a cell phone behind the wheel.
And parents of young drivers need to know that enforcement of cell phone laws depends on the example they set for their own teens and enforcement of (or creation of, if there’s no state law) a strict rule about not driving while talking on a cell phone in their own household. Recent research indicates that enactment of a state law prohibiting cell phone use while driving is not sufficient to keep teens from doing so.
A study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety/UNC Highway Safety Research Center showed that teenage drivers’ cell phone use actually went up after the state of North Carolina enacted a ban on cell phone use by young drivers. The ban on cell phone use by drivers younger than age 18 is part of the state’s graduated licensing program.
One to two months prior to the ban’s start on Dec. 1, 2006, researchers observed 11% of teen drivers using cell phones as they drove away from school in the afternoon. About five months after the ban, they observed nearly 12% of teen drivers using phones. Half of the teens surveyed by phone after the law took effect said that they had used their cell phones, if they had driven, the day before the interview.
Interestingly, both young drivers and their parents strongly support the law (74% of teens and 95% of their parents) and say that the problem is that it isn’t being enforced. But teens have a far better rate of compliance with other graduated licensing restrictions even when those laws aren’t well-enforced.
“Most young drivers comply with graduated licensing restrictions such as limits on nighttime driving and passengers, even when enforcement is low,” says Anne McCartt, Institute senior vice president for research and an author of the study. “The hope in North Carolina was that the same would hold true for cell phone use, but this wasn’t the case…Parents play a big role in compliance with graduated licensing rules.”
Studies show that teenage minds are predisposed to risk-taking. In 2005 and 2006, a series of risk-reward studies across a range of age groups funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and published in The Journal of Neuroscience showed that when confronted with risky choices, the brains of teenagers exhibit twice as much activity in the impulse area as adult brains, while the area that expresses restraint shows less activity. The study indicated that it takes until the early 20s for the two areas to reach parity.
This biological imperative to throw caution to the wind, combined with a teenager’s natural rebellion and peer pressure to be able to handle dangerous situations without exhibiting fear, is a deadly mix.
Enforcement of the law is typically the purview of law enforcement, not parents. But a teen may only be motivated to comply when the law and parental “house rules” intersect, as in the case of driving curfews that are part of the graduated driver’s license programs in most states and household curfews that parents implement for the health and safety of their children.
“Cell phone bans for teen drivers are difficult to enforce,” McCartt says. “Drivers with phones to their ears aren’t hard to spot, but it’s nearly impossible for police officers to see hands-free devices or correctly guess how old drivers are.”
And Barbara Harsha, executive direction of the Governors Highway Safety Association, says, “What [cell phones while driving] laws do is send the message to the parent more than anything else.”
When surveyed after the cell phone restrictions in North Carolina took effect, only 39% of parents said they were aware of the cell phone law, compared with 64% of teen drivers. If only 39% of parents even knew the law existed, how many parents had discussed the law with their children? If parents knew about the law, they could use it to support their own house rules. If cell phone use while driving hadn’t been banned by the parents previously, they could use the state law as support for a new house rule.
Perhaps most difficult for some parents is setting a good example for their teens. Parents must drive the speed limit, wear their seat belts, avoid driving distractions such as cell phone use, and drive defensively. They should pull over to use their cell phones or have a passenger answer it instead. Parents should use this time to point out drivers who demonstrate risky behavior, including talking on cell phones, and initiate a discussion by asking the teen driver to explain why it’s unsafe. Here is a Parent Teen Driving Contract with recommendations from the Driver Education Handbook for Parents to help you and your teen compose a practical contract of rules regarding driving expectations.
Teen Driving Privileges Linked to School Attendance
July 31, 2007
There’s a new state law in Illinois that is supposed to crack down on teen driving privileges. The gist of it all is basically that teens that are truant in school and cut classes or are expelled could have their driving permits suspended until they turn 18. Apparently, lawmakers want to provide incentive for kids to stay in school.
There is some debate as to whether this new law will work or not. Various versions of this law have been passed in other states but the verdict is still out as to how well it is working. Eighteen unexcused absences, expulsion or dropping out are three ways that teenagers can lose their driving permits in Illinois.
Skeptics wonder how much of an impact this can have on teenagers. If they are aware of this new law long before they are eligible for driving, perhaps it will make some impression on those new teens that are starving for a little independence that driving can bring. However, exactly how is this new law going to be relayed to the teenagers that could be affected by it now?
Are schools going to go out of their way to broadcast this change? Chances are they will claim that they do not have adequate resources. Plus, teenagers have to do something drastic in order to have their driving permits revoked. By the time cutting classes or expulsion are caught, it is almost too late to do anything about it anyway. And 18 unexcused absences are quite excessive. Wouldn’t it be more effective if the requirement were half that?
The bottom line is while the law has good intentions, the problems lies in reinforcing it. Schools are overextended already. How is that information about unexcused absences, truancy and expulsion going to be relayed to the powers that be? Who is planning to do all the following up? It could literally take several years before the law really catches on and the truancy problems start to decline.
In the meantime, you have teens who would likely continue to drive even with truancy problems at school. Their misdeeds could literally take months to catch up with them in the form of a revoked driving permit. And for some, they could age out before they reap any consequences. That is not much of a slap on the wrist is it? This new law is a bit hazy still on how everything is supposed to play out. It will just have to be a wait and see game.
Teaching Teens to Drive: MetLife Offers Five Simple Tips
May 22, 2007
Many parents probably remember the day their teen received their learner’s permit and first asked to borrow the family car. For moms and dads, it can be scary to think of their children out on the road. If you taught them well, you can be assured they’ll make the right decisions when behind the wheel, but you can’t always count on other drivers to be responsible and safe. As parents, you may not be able to be with your children every waking hour, making sure they do the right thing, but if you have trained them well, then letting go of some control over them gets easier.
This is especially true when it comes time to teaching your teen to drive. Considering that auto-related accidents are the leading cause of death for young people aged 15 to 20 years, it is so important for parents to be a part of their teen’s driving education. Studying good driving habits from a trusted adult has proven to help save the lives of many teens during their first year of driving. Lack of education and experience both contribute to poor decision making by teens, and parents can help with both.
According to insurance company MetLife Auto & Home, there are a few simple steps you can take to help your teen while learning to drive:
– Be a good driving example. Your children won’t always do what you say, but they will do what you do. If you teach them to follow speed limit signs, wear a seatbelt, and be sober — you better be prepared to follow up your words with actions. Even at an early age, children absorb what goes on around them. Being a responsible and safe driver will help your teens learn by example.
– Get a view from the passenger’s side. It’s easy to be a “backseat driver” when you forget what it’s like to be a passenger. If you’re the one always behind the wheel, take a trip with someone in the passenger seat, so you remember what it’s like to be a passenger under normal conditions. That way, when your teen drives you around, you’ll know it’s normal for mailboxes to whiz by at the edge of the road.
– Short and patient lessons are best. When lessons are short, your teen is more likely to remember all that was covered. Also, it leaves less time for either one of you to become frustrated and impatient. You want to end your lessons on a good note, so keep it short and simple.
– Write down your progress. Some states require you to record the number of hours spent behind the wheel with your teen, so it makes sense to keep a log of the dates you train, what you covered, and how long you spent. You can also keep track of what needs improving upon, so that it can be covered again on a future date.
– Keep your eyes open and voice down. Everyone knows that teenagers get defensive when their parents get angry, and loud voices and criticisms are sure to have the same effect. When riding in the passenger seat, it’s best for parents to remain calm. At the same time, keeping an eye out for hazards or irresponsible drivers is important. Alert your teen to any dangers, and even if they are able to avoid them, teach them about the importance of defensive driving and being prepared for the unexpected.
An information guide, “Teaching Your Teens to Drive (Without Driving Each Other Crazy!),” is available from MetLife Auto & Home by calling 1-800-MET-LIFE.
Create your own customized Parent-Teen Driving Contract online based on the recommendations from the Driver Education Handbook for Parents. Our interactive tool will help you and your teen compose a practical contract of rules regarding driving expectations and car privileges that both parties can agree on.