Last updateWed, 20 Sep 2017 9am

On The Road

How an adult goes about getting a driver's license


Q: My son just turned 18, but he never got his driver’s license. He’s now ready to learn the rules of the road and get his license. What is the process?

A: The process for an adult to obtain a driver license is relatively simple. First, your son has to visit the DMV (he may schedule an appointment online at www.dmv.ca.gov to ensure faster service), fill out the proper application, pay an application fee, pass a vision test and pass a written traffic laws and signs test. He also needs to provide his social security number and verify other personal information. If he passes the exams, he’ll be issued a permit and be able to drive as long as he’s accompanied by another licensed adult. After practicing, he can schedule a behind-the-wheel driver’s test. Once he passes that, he’ll be issued his driver license. He must have an appointment to take this test.

  It’s very important that he understands the rules of the road and becomes a safe driver. Luckily, the California Driver Handbook has everything he needs to learn. It can be downloaded at www.dmv.ca.gov.


Q: My mom gets mad at me when I pass people on the freeway. She says it is reckless and rude, but I know it’s legal to pass other vehicles. Can you tell me the rules about changing lanes to pass?

 A: Of course. While you are right – it is legal to pass other vehicles – you must do so safely at all times. According to the California Driver Handbook, when passing another vehicle you should always pass traffic on the left, and only change lanes after having looked ahead and over your shoulder to ensure no other vehicles are moving into your lane. If the vehicle in front of you has its signal on to indicate a left hand turn, do not pass that vehicle. You may pass on the right if you are on a highway with two or more lanes marked for travel in your direction. If you follow these rules and maintain the speed limit when passing, assure your mother that you are obeying traffic laws and that it is acceptable behavior.


Q: I am very concerned, because my best friend was cited for DUI for the first time. What are the ramifications for driving under the influence?

A: Financial costs for a first-time conviction vary, but could cost up to $13,000 in fines, penalty assessments and insurance costs plus a jail sentence of up to six months, depending upon the court and circumstance. In addition, DUI convictions remain on the driving record for 10 years.

For a first-time conviction, the DMV will suspend a person’s driving privilege for six months. The person convicted (in this case, your friend) must complete a DUI program, provide evidence of insurance (SR22), and pay a $125 reissue fee before they can get their license back. Your friend may be eligible for a restricted license issued by DMV before the end of the six-month suspension.


Q: I bought my car two years ago but have never had a smog check. Am I supposed to get routine smog checks, or will the DMV notify me when it’s time to get one done?

 A: The DMV will notify you. When you receive your vehicle registration renewal notice, it will indicate if a smog certification is required. If you are required to get a smog inspection but have not done so by the time your registration renewal fee is due, you must still pay it to avoid any late fees, but your new stickers will not be issued until the DMV has received proper smog certification for your vehicle.

 Smog inspections are required for all vehicles except those four model-years old and newer, diesel-powered vehicles, electric, natural gas powered vehicles exceeding 14,000 pounds, hybrids, motorcycles, trailers, or vehicles 1975 and older. Vehicles that are four or less model-years old pay a “smog abatement fee,” included in your registration fee.  Visit www.dmv.ca.gov/online/vrir/faqsmog.htm to learn more about smog requirements.


Q: I recently noticed that my driver’s license looks a bit damaged, and I am concerned that it doesn’t look valid anymore. Should I replace it?

 A: A damaged driver license should be replaced. You can apply for a duplicate license by scheduling an appointment online (www.dmv.ca.gov) or visiting a DMV field office. There, you will fill out the proper form, pay an application fee and have your picture taken. The DMV will validate all your personal information to keep your identity secure, so expect them to ask for your social security number and other information.

You’ll be issued an interim license to use until you receive your new one, which should arrive within 60 days. 

George Valverde was appointed California Department of Motor Vehicles Director in 2006. Prior to his DMV appointment, Valverde served as undersecretary of the State and Consumer Services Agency and deputy secretary for fiscal operations.

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