Hooniverse Asks- Do You Think It's Too Easy to Get a Driver’s License?

McLovin

A few years back, I went to the DMV to transfer into my name the title of a recent poor choice I had made. While I was standing in the sea of humanity that was the line for such matters I happened to glance over at the area for license test taking to my left. This was a pair of long, standing-height counters, with each side separated by a vertical divider. I also noticed in that area, an older Asian man – I’d say he looked to be somewhere in the neighborhood of 300 years old – who had received his scroll-like written driver’s test from the DMV employee behind the counter, and had in turn handed it to a younger Asian man who proceeded to take the test in his stead.

My eyes grew wide at this blatant attempt at fraud, as well as the thought that this Methuselah could soon be on the road, completely unchecked by California’s crack team of automotive rule and traffic code test givers. When it was my turn in line, I reported the flagrant violation of the DMV code of ethics to the woman behind what appeared to be bullet proof glass at the title transfer window. She relayed my concern to another and then proceeded to argue with me that a 1969 MGB-GT did too need to pass a smog inspection before the title could be ceremoniously transferred to my name. This is why I now do all my DMV transactions through the Auto Club.

Here in California at least, it seems that the steps required to become legally capable of piloting a two-ton mechanism of death and destruction – while tweeting that your last fart was totes LOL – is way too easy. I don’t know if that’s the same in other states in the U.S., but I do know that in other countries the task is a lot harder. The question is, wherever you are, is it hard enough? Do you think that it’s presently too easy for someone to get a driver’s license?

Image source: LegitScript

55 Comments

  1. Not only do I think it's too easy, and the tests laughably short, I'm a staunch supporter of driver re-testing on a regular basis – say, every 5 -10 yrs or so.
    I'm not talking private pilot's license levels of difficulty in training and testing, but pretty damn close. Ahh.. if only I was in charge..

    1. Agreed.
      I've driven commercially, and honestly, I want a test I might not pass the first time around.
      Re-testing, the full test, every 5 years works for me.

    2. Maybe a written test every 5 years and a road test every 10 years. Otherwise the cost and volume of people at the DMV would be fairly high.
      I always thought people should take a full test at 30, 50, and 70 years. The initial test at 16 should also be more extensive, testing stuff like emergency stopping and emergency lane changing. It also seems like nobody is taught how to navigate a circular intersection. There should be some type of orientation video before the exam, to go over all the basic navigation rules.

      1. As I was about a bumpers width away from being hit by an older fellow in my local (easy to conquer) rotary yesterday and this has happened with shocking regularity. I to agree that somthing should be included in the testing. Another thing that older drivers should be tested on is what the posted speed limit signs look like and how to fallow said posted speed limits, 20 to 30 km/h over the limit nets a ticket why the h€ll dosnt 20 to 30 under. Also after the age of say 50, written and road testing should be mandatory every five years.

        1. There are some states that have posted minimum limits, but it should be used on most highways.

  2. We have graduated licensing here in Ontario, but it doesn't seem to do us much good. First step is a written multiple choice test that allows you to drive under certain conditions (like having an adequately licensed driver riding shotgun and supervising), second step is a quick road test (in my case, I was out for about 10 minutes, and the most strenuous thing I did was a three-point turn in a subdivision) that allows you to drive by yourself. Third step is another road test, although even that's not difficult (a bit of highway driving, merging, another three-point turn, parallel parking if possible – I think I was out for about a half-hour), and then you're free from any more testing until you turn 80 (although even then, it's just a written test).
    Worse than that, many driving schools in the Toronto area are notorious for shipping their students out of the city, to one-stoplight towns to take their road tests, because these locations are known for higher passing rates (and traffic conditions far different from what the students will actually encounter).
    Couple all this with police who seem rather uninterested in enforcing much beyond speed, and we have a huge number of confused, frightened drivers clogging up the roads. And yet the ministry of transportation seems uninterested in doing anything about this, insisting we've got some of the safest roads in the continent (because everyone's going too slowly to get in a fatal accident, or get anywhere promptly), and that retesting every few years is a waste of time (I know, I've written them multiple times).

    1. …police who seem rather uninterested in enforcing much beyond speed…
      This is my biggest complaint about traffic enforcement police.
      Tailgating? Who cares — is he speeding?
      Change lanes without signaling? Um — is he also speeding?
      Parked in the passing lane? Well, at least he's not speeding.
      Weaving all over the lane because cell phone? Actually, he's going 5 under the limit, and for that I commend him!

      1. If there's any doubt that it's about revenue and easily-applied black-and-white rules, there you are. All of these are the officer's word against the motorist's without dashcam footage being involved, despite being an impedance to traffic (misuse of lane) or downright dangerous (other factors), whereas the radar gun (almost) never lies.

    2. I got my license in New Brunswick about 10 years ago, and our system is similar, but even easier. I wrote a 20-25 question test which allowed me to drive at any time as long as I had a fully licensed driver in the car (Class 7-1). Twelve months later I did an in-car test which lasted all of 15 minutes cruising around side streets. No highways or roundabouts. Just stop signs and 4-way stops. (Class 7-2) Then a couple of years later they MAILED me my full, unrestricted Class 5 license. No more testing until I get my motorcycle license! Which is also a joke.

    3. The situation in Ontario sounds a lot like the system we have in Australia, except the written test is now computer-based, and the two driving tests are combined into one. Over here, the practice of allowing any fully-licensed driver typically means that children are taught to drive by their parents, who have probably not had to pass a driving test for maybe 20 years or more, which leads to bad habits being passed down from parent to child.
      We also have a system geared toward increasing speed enforcement at the expense of driver education and other issues. A number of state motoring organizations have argued in favor of the government promoting advanced driver training – this has been rejected on successive occasions, on the pretense that it may make drivers over-confident, despite it being standard practice for police to undergo such training. Also, regardless of whether the accident rate has increased or decreased compared to previous years, it will always be used by senior police as an argument to increase the current level of enforcement, and therefore their funding.
      I believe the real problem with introducing periodic driver retesting where it has not previously existed is not doubts about its effectiveness. Anecdotal evidence over here indicates that it is seen by many in government as something that will be politically unpopular, therefore nobody is prepared to stake their electoral future on it.

  3. I live in a small(small) town. It was laughably easy to get my driver's license. Get 20/25 questions right on a written test and a very very simple driving test.
    Getting my Class B(28000gvwr+) was much more interesting. The test was quite a bit harder, to the point that I failed it the first time(although a few questions were utter crap). The driving part was even easier though. I drove down the road, turned around in a parking lot and drove back to the testing location. This was to drive a FIRE TRUCK. I'd think they'd want safer drivers behind the wheel of big trucks.

  4. No, not given the alternative.
    However, I think that the driver's license that we get allows too many privileges at the current level of driver testing.
    Basically, too much of the US has no public transport, no cycling infrastructure, and distances way too far to walk. So, driving is necessary. But, I can take my license test in a 49 hp, 1600 lb Geo Metro XFi, which consists of a 40 question multiple choice test that requires 70% to pass, about 5 minutes driving through a cone course, and a short drive around the block. Then, I can hop in a Veyron, or I can hop in a 25,999 GVWR U-Haul, that SAME DAY, with no additional training.
    I'm in favor of graduated licensing. The current licensing standards are decent for Europe's supermini class, lightweight cars that are relatively slow and do less damage to others. But, have CDL-like standards for anything bigger and heavier, and private pilot-like standards for CDLs.
    I also think that the European light quadricycle class would be handy for a moped-like class, easy to get even with DUI convictions. It would eliminate the need for party plates to keep someone convicted of a DUI going to work. Which, most states recognize the Low Speed Vehicle (also known as Neighborhood Electric Vehicle) class, although it's allowed to be 3000 lbs, which is absolutely ridiculous, and it requires a full drivers license in every state that allows it, despite being limited to something like 20 mph (meaning it has the same or even stricter restrictions than a moped).

  5. To be honest, I do feel that there are many people on the road who are a testament to it being too easy to get and/or keep a license, but the alternative is more hoops to jump through for the drivers who are at least satisfactory. It really is a balancing act, and I’m not sure that making it more difficult to become licensed will get the worst of the bad drivers off of the road. Many are already driving on suspended licenses, and a few are circumventing testing requirements by having someone else take the test for them (as in the example above). I, like most people, like to consider myself a good driver, but the fact is that I am probably just adequate. I feel confident that I could pass any additional testing requirements that they might throw at me, but I really don’t want to have to. Honestly, in many parts of the country, driving is barely optional, and many who might not meet stricter guidelines wouldn’t give up driving. We’d just see a spike in the number of unlicensed drivers. Most drivers are okay, and to inconvenience them all to catch the few makes little economic sense.

  6. Judging by the amount of morons on the road? Yes.
    Being around older drivers is even more frustrating, especially when they drive 3-4 miles with their left blinker on and then turn right onto the highway without even turning the right blinker on.
    Makes driving more of a chore than a pleasure. Kills the love of driving.

    1. Makes me think of George Carlin's routine… "Have you ever noticed that anybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac?"

      1. On the other hand, if you haven't noticed anyone driving slower than you in the past year, maybe it's time to hang up the keys permanently…

  7. You bet.
    A few years ago I got a speeding ticket in Orange County, and for some reason OC does not allow online traffic school to clear the infraction, so I had to go to an actual 8 hour traffic school. My god, it was eye opening. The instructor quizzed the class on some really basic concepts and laws – stuff that I thought every driver should know – and frequently I was the only one who knew the answer.
    I was trying hard not to be the Martin Prince of the class, but eventually I got to the point where I'd answer all the questions just so we could move on and not have uncomfortable silence or ridiculous answers from other students. It saddened and frightened me to realize that these were the people I was sharing the road with every day.
    <img src="http://images4.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20080528034255/simpsons/images/5/5a/Martin.jpg"&gt;

      1. Used them for the first time ever yesterday… the location is probably 3 miles from my house, and I never thought to use them.
        My life has changed.

          1. I signed up for membership on Monday, registered my car on Tuesday

        1. We need that option in Missouri. It takes a unique combination of ignorance and arrogance to work at the state license bureau – you don't know the answer to the "customer's" question and you're pissed off they would have the nerve to ask. One of the more distasteful aspects of our system is that bureau franchises are issued via a patronage system – the governor decides who gets them and they can be very lucrative. That's how our county prosecutor's wife gets to draw six figures without lifting a finger.

  8. Not if you're my kid, it isn't. She's still pissed at me for insisting she pass Dad's more rigorous driving examination before taking the state's.

  9. I actually joke around sometimes saying I want to run for a position that enables me to rewrite driving laws in, at least, this state. (California).
    We'd essentially adopt what Germany is doing…

    1. At the same time, could we also adopt Autobahn quality road paving? I'd vote for you.
      Crack in the foot and a half thick pavement? Better tear up the whole section and repave it.

  10. I'm a driving instructor here in California. Here's our test:
    Four lefts, Four rights, a couple of lane changes and backing along a curb, keeping the car straight for three car lengths. That's the requirement for an original driver's license here in Ca. Six hours with an Instructor like me, 50 hours with your parents if you're under 18 (17.5 actually). If you've passed that temporal landmark, you can make an appointment and take the test with NO TRAINING. Not even the basics.
    Do we need tighter requirements? Yes. Will they work? No. As was mentioned in earlier comments, the U.S. is unique in its lack of public transportation infrastructure that makes having a license necessary, even for those who do not wish to have one.
    I don't know if there's any real solution to making the average driver better- it's simply transportation to many and the sooner they get their errands done, the better for all involved.

    1. One point of drivers licenses is public mobility, and that involves elderly people, distracted parents, unexperienced teenagers, all sitting in a rainbow of cars types. As a state or nation, you don't want to force people to move out of their social frame just because they can't get a license – and technically, driving a car is not so much an intellectual achievement — traffic is:
      Unfortunately, imo, traffic is something one can't just learn from the books, you need conscious experience: anticipation, consideration, and even the occasional "oops". This again requires to be your own judge, watch yourself and others from "one level above" , draw conclusions, and adjust your behaviour accordingly. That's quite an achievement!
      Two things my driving instructor taught me:
      1. With proper adjustment and anticipation, one can go hundreds of km on the Autobahn without touching the brakes. But if necessary: USE THE BREAKS.
      2. When driving, assume they are all imbecile idiots: don't take their faults personal, just smile that your unbelievable skills saved the situation.
      Both are profoundly true!

    2. Wow, your requirements are tougher than ours (in NH)… I aced a written test, drove down the street with a state policeman riding shotgun, backed into a parking space, and drove back to the DMV. Of course, we don't have multiple-lane roads everywhere, and parallel parking is rarely necessary, but still… those are skills everyone should have.

  11. The exam I took, 16 years ago, was too easy. I drove a mile down an empty 2-lane road in nowhere Georgia, turned around in a parking lot, and then parallel parked back at the DMV (The spot was the size of a truck).
    I was lucky that I started driving in Atlanta at 14 and had already acquired decent driving skills navigating the congested highways in the city.
    This was barely enough to prepare me for Boston though. They should make this entire city take another driving test.

  12. During my original test, the car actually stalled during the three-point turn portion (it was an automatic). I calmly put it in neutral, restarted, and finished the turn.
    The instructor just gave me a quiet "Nice" nod…

  13. The actual testing yes, too easy. However new laws that attempt to thwart illegal aliens from getting a drivers license have made the bureaucratic paperwork side of things a real pain. You now have to have a copy of your birth certificate or passport to renew your license here in Georgia, if you are a married woman, you need a copy of your marriage license too, also you need something like a utility bill to prove address. It used to be you could renew online, no more. I could see all this paperwork for the first time, but this is going to be required for EVERYONE, even if you have had a license for 50 years.

  14. When my daughter turned 15 and received her permit, she quickly became the family chauffeur with Mom or I riding shotgun in whatever vehicle we were in. Mom's wagon, Dad's truck, the Durango… even Grandma's Town Car. She easily had 10,000 miles of experience before she turned 16. She's towed boats, backed trailers and we took "her" car to the autocross events.
    The state mandated "test" was completely laughable. Drive up the street, turn around in parking lot, drive back. Less than 10 minutes. What… a… joke.
    The most difficult part of the Driver's License process was gathering all of the non related driving BS to prove citizenship, progress in school, etc. etc.

  15. Pennsylvania's test is a joke, too. 25 multiple choice questions, you have your permit, which means you can drive anything up to 26K lbs, as long as there's a licensed driver riding shotgun. 50 hours of driving experience later (which everyone fakes), the practical exam- drive through a parking lot for a little, make a right onto a 45 mph road, turn off the road after 1/4 mile, and back into the DMV parking lot, and then parallel park in a spot roughly 2.5 times larger than any actual parallel parking space. I actually remember saying to the guy giving me the test, "Can I do some more to prove to you that I can actually drive, this didn't prove anything." And he said something to the effect of, that would be awesome, but they schedule everything so tight that I can't spend more than 8-10 minutes with each person, and they give us very strict guidelines on the route we have to do. Ridiculous.

  16. I was pretty shocked at 15 at how easy it was to get my permit. But then I'd been driving cars since grade school (hooray for living in a rural area). Crashed my first car at 3 or 4 and got to drive a 911 on the highway sitting on my dads lap in 8th grade.

  17. I work with a guy who's in his early fifties, like me. When he took his driver's test back in the mid-seventies, he was driving some old beater, as we did back then. It was missing a couple of teeth on the flywheel, so if it wouldn't start, he'd pop the hood and give the alternator belt a yank to move the flywheel over a little. Wouldn't you know it did that with the driving examiner in the car. Basically, the guy said "You can't take the test like this. Get it fixed or come back with a different car."

  18. In KY, I think you get a free license with the purchase of a Toyota from the local factory.

  19. Depends on where you are. Being Dutch myself I don't think it's too easy to get a drivers license here, although I would like to see a recurring test every 10 years or so. However, reading about the US would almost scare me if I were to visit as a tourist. That test sounds like nothing but a formality. Is it even possible for a person of average intelligence to fail?

  20. Yes, driving instruction and licensing in this country is a joke, and it's gotten worse since I got my license.
    I took my test in July, 1977, with a Texas DPS trooper as the examiner, and passed with an amazing score of 77 out of 100. I somehow managed to successfully parallel park my mom's '66 Rambler American with manual steering (6-1/2 turns lock-to-lock!), even though I'd never parallel parked it.
    After I passed the test I went to drive home, and promptly cut someone off, getting onto Central Expressway (facepalm). But then, this was the old Central, with its 100-foot-long ramps and ramp metering signals. I hated those ramps and signals.

  21. the problem isn't that it's too easy to get a driver's license – it's that it's too hard to live without one.

  22. I got my driver licence in the Netherlands. Back in the day it was not that easy, first a multiple choice test and after a certain amount of lessons you could go for a test. The test it self was done by an un known instructor that came from another city to do the test. The test consisted in driving for one hour through a medium sized city and get on highway and do some tests like hillclimb stop and go, park between cars (real cars on the street no cones. If there was only one thing thing you did wrong or skipped during that hour, you failed.
    This all had to be repeated for motorcycle driving licence and trucks over 4 tonnes, trucks with trailors and busses over 9 passengers.

  23. I've told the story of what Finns make you do multiple times so let's change it up a bit…
    Florida DMV made me take the test. They would have just handed me a license if I had had a German or French license, but they couldn't understand what an EU license was so off to the test I went. They gave me a multiple choice test thing without time limits first, and then it was time for the driving portion. They had a small loop set up behind the office where we did a 3 point turn and drove a lap around. Never drove on an actual street for a second. And that was it, they gave me a license that gives me the right to drive a passenger car or a ginormous box truck. Thanks Jeb!
    So yes, it's too easy.

  24. It's a problem that parallel parking is generally the most difficult and most important part of the driving test. I would resist the urge to make licensing more onerous, as I doubt it would lead to better drivers. I would consider having mandatory relicensing, with higher standards, for anyone involved in an accident.

  25. Okay, No. I live in Ohio, and I've gone through so much crap to get my license. I have to have 24 hours of in class time, plus 8 hours of in-car instruction, and then I also have to have 50 hours of driving with my parents, including 10 hours of night driving time. During this time, if your parent isn't an ignoramus, they teach you how to execute any emergency maneuvers you might need to make. The test to get your license isn't that hard, but there are so many things you experience on your way there that make it a rather complicated task, and it's getting more and more so. High school life is not that easy, plus you have to do all this on top of that, and your job to pay for your gas and your insurance too. I don't think that accidents are a lot of the time the kid's fault. More or less, it'd be the parents who let their kids do whatever the hell they want to behind the wheel, and then buy them 500HP or more SUVs or sports cars. All people should pay more attention to their kids when they teach them to drive, to the time they're 18.

    1. Or, wait until you're 18, and the class time, in-car instruction, and 50 hours of driving with your parents requirements go away entirely. Which is actually why I didn't get my license until after I turned 18, my parents couldn't pay for the classes.
      (I don't think that those requirements should go away once you turn 18, but they do.)

  26. It is too easy. Luckily (although not really luck) for me I am a skilled driver, but the other 90+% of people…

  27. Laughably easy. I'm 16, I just got my license. There's actually a question on the "test" entitled, What do you do when approaching a stop sign? Come on, society wonders why teenagers are such bad drivers, it's because the government is allowing terrible drivers onto the road as long as they pay a mere 120$. It's rediculous. The vision test was harder than the actual written portion.

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