I had my friend Merry write an article for you guys about how to get a driver’s license as a homeschooler. Really, I think I needed the step by step instructions and she did a great job! My 15 year old now has her driver’s permit. It was pretty painless given the wonderful information Merry provided.
Big thank you to Merry for this great article on her experience with teen drivers!
Got a soon-to-be-driving teen in your house? If you’re like me, you may need some guidance in figuring out what your child needs to know, do and have in order to get their license. This is especially important and confusing if you are homeschooling your teen. It can be overwhelming. I’ve tried to gather all things new-teen driver related into one post for our local readers. If you think I’ve missed something, please leave a comment!
In Georgia, teens go through a graduated driver’s license program because of the Teenage and Adult Driver Responsibility Act (TADRA). It is a three-step educational process that helps teens gain more experience with driving. As they complete the requirements of each permit, they are allowed to graduate to less restrictive licenses. The Georgia Department of Driver Services (DDS) has a page with everything you need to know for teens, but I’ve broken it down with links for each step below.
The first thing to know is that there are Georgia Department of Driver Services offices all over the state, and you will be visiting one of them at least twice. Of course, there is one in Athens, but you can go to other offices if you choose. Some of the offices are much busier with much longer waits than others. We used the one in Greensboro with no real wait time at all.
When your child is 15, they can get their instructional permit (class CP), often called a learner’s permit.
• There are documents you must take with you to the DDS. You will need a current certificate of school enrollment to verity that your teen attends school. If you are attending a school, the school office will have to fill this out and notarize it. They do this all the time and will probably have forms there. If your student is homeschooled, you will need a copy of their homeschool declaration of intent instead. You will also need their birth certificate and social security card. It would also be good to take something official showing your child’s residential address; an envelope, postcard or magazine they’re received in the mail, maybe. There is an application you will have to fill out and sign, but you can skip a step by filling in the application before you go there. If you do, print it out and take it with you, but do NOT sign it until they tell you to once you are there.
• Your child will be expected to pass a knowledge exam about rules of the road and road signs. You can find information you need to practice in the DDS driver manual. They also must pass a quick vision test to make sure they can see well enough to drive.
• You will have to pay $10 for the permit. This permit is valid for 2 years.
With their new learner’s permit, your teen is ready to learn to drive! But they must always be accompanied by someone over 21 who has a valid full license (class C). While they have their learner’s license, they are required to complete a total of 40 hours of driving, including 6 hours at night in order to get their intermediate license at 16 . . . so get them driving! We started our son off in large parking lots and secluded, not-busy roads.
A part of TADRA is Joshua’s law, which requires teens who want to get their license at age 16 to complete an approved driver’s education course first. If you and your teen decide to wait until they are 17 to be able to drive on their own, then it is NOT required to take a driver’s education course, although it would give you a discount on insurance if they do!
• Driver’s education courses done with professional instructors are very thorough, and your teen would get on-the-road driving practice with them. They take about 30 hours. The downside is they are costly . . . $300 or more. That being said, there is an option for a scholarship from the state for driver’s education that is worth looking into! The Georgia DDS site offers a list of certified driver training schools. Many high schools have instructors come do a class there at certain times in the year, and it is open to anyone (for a fee), regardless of if they attend the school or not, I believe. Check the list to see if a high school near you offers it.
• Athens Technical College offers a driver’s education course for $350. The option I mentioned above for a scholarship applies for this course as well. They also have a driver’s education simulator that allows your teen to practice with an instructor without actually being on the road for $35!
• Another option is to have your teen take a driver’s education course online. They still would take 30 hours to do the course, but it would all be done online. The Georgia DDS site also offers a list of certified online driver’s education courses. The benefit of this option is the convenience of doing it at home and the cost. It varies depending on which company you use but costs as little as $30. The downside of this option is that it may not be as thorough as it would with an instructor, or your teen may breeze through it without really paying attention. Honestly, my son did the course online, and when he did the road test at 16, he didn’t pass it the first time because of several small rules of the road he didn’t remember learning in the online class.
Another part of TADRA is that any driver under the age of 18 must complete the Alcohol and Drug Awareness Program (ADAP). If your teen is enrolled in a school, that course is done at the school, usually in freshman year. But there is an online option for homeschooled teens. It is free, and takes about four hours to complete.
If your teen is 16, got their learner’s permit and has had it for at least a year, has driven for at least 40 hours with at least 6 of those at night, has completed a driver’s education course and has completed ADAP, . . . OR they are 17, have or have NOT done a driver’s education course but HAVE done ADAP and HAVE driven for 40 hours with 6 of those at night . . . then they are ready to go for their intermediate license (class D). WHEW!!
This license allows them to drive by themselves, with some restrictions. They are not allowed to drive between midnight and 5 a.m. For the first 6 months, they are not allowed ANY passenger who is not a family member. For the second 6 months, they are not allowed more than ONE non-family passenger who is less than 21. After the second 6 month period, they are not allowed more than THREE non-family member passengers who are less than 21.
• You must take the same documents to DDS that you took for their learner’s permit plus two additional documents; their certificates of completion for their driver’s education course and ADAP. You also need proof of vehicle insurance and registration for the car they will drive for the road test. You will also be expected to sign a document swearing that your teen did the required 40 hours of driving, including 6 at night. Again, you will need to fill in and sign an application, which you can do ahead of time. If you do, print it and take it there with you, and do NOT sign it until they tell you to while you are there.
• Your teen may again have to pass a knowledge exam and a vision exam.
• This time, they must take a road test. This means an individual will get in the vehicle with your child and ride with them to assess their driving, but it’s done on a closed course at the DDS. This link tells you some of the things they will watch for. One important note here . . . you must schedule an appointment IN ADVANCE for the ROAD TEST!! From what I see, the only way to set up an appointment is to call the phone number. When I called, I was put on hold. They have an option that allows you to keep your place in line to speak with the representative, and the system will call you back when it’s time. Considering that it took THREE HOURS for it to be my turn to speak to someone, I recommend you do that! How soon you can get an appointment for a road test depends on how busy the office where you want to do it is. I asked about the office in the town of Between and couldn’t get an appointment for a road test there for a month, so I asked about the office in Greensboro and they had plenty of openings. We were able to get our appointment there for the next day.
• You will pay $10 for this license. It is valid for 5 years. But, when they are 18, they will want to get their full license (class C).
You made it this far . . . the last step is simple! Once your teen is 18, they can upgrade their license to a full class C, which has no restrictions. This can be done online, thankfully! They may get a card in the mail reminding them. As long as their class D intermediate license is still valid and they have no major traffic convictions in the last year, they can upgrade it. Of course, if they haven’t gotten any licenses before now and this is their first time getting a license at all, they will have to go to a DDS office with their documentation and take the knowledge exam, road test and vision exam.
THERE! Now you have a full fledged driver just in time for them to fly from the nest (sniff).