Driver’s License?: Students say permit test just first step in this time-honored rite of passage

Prescott High School student Cutter Todd shows off his provisional license. He took the Drivers Education class at school and got his license in September.

Photo by Les Stukenberg.

Prescott High School student Cutter Todd shows off his provisional license. He took the Drivers Education class at school and got his license in September.

Sample questions from Arizona Driver License Manual: (Spoiler alert: answers are below)

  1. What differentiates a regular driver’s license from one for those under age 21?
  2. What are the proper hand signals for right turn, left turn and slow down or stop?
  3. What are the rules of a roundabout?
  4. What is the distance a motorist must keep away from any emergency vehicle?
  5. Can you be ticketed for driving too slowly?
  6. Do bicyclists have special road privileges?
  7. What do you do in a dust storm?
  8. When do you stop for a school bus?

Answers:

  1. The license is vertical rather than horizontal.
  2. If driving without working signal devices, left hand up for right turn, left hand straight across for left turn, and left hand down to motion slow down or stop.
  3. Approaching vehicles must yield to traffic in the circle. Always yield to pedestrians and bicyclists that are crossing the road. Always enter to the right of the central island. Slow travel between 15 and 20 mph. Once inside, do not stop until you reach your exit.
  4. 300 feet. If emergency vehicles are approaching with lights and sirens, pull over or at least reduce speed.
  5. Yes. Drive the speed limit or travel in the right lane to allow faster moving traffic to pass.
  6. No. Bicyclists must obey the same traffic laws as motorists. Motorists do need to keep a look-out for bicyclists on the side of the road, and need to allow a minimum safe distance of 3 feet when passing a bicyclist traveling in the same direction.
  7. Immediately check traffic, slow down and pull all the way off the roadway. Turn your car lights off and take your foot off the brake. Stay in the vehicle with seat belts buckled until the storm passes.
  8. Come to a complete stop when a school bus is picking up or dropping off passengers regardless your lane of travel. You are not required to stop for a school bus on a divided highway when traveling in the opposite direction.

For more information about Arizona’s traffic laws, visit the website: www.azdot.gov/mvd...

PRESCOTT – The all-important driver’s learning permit is a carrot for most all teen-agers; getting behind the wheel of one’s first car, even if it is Mom’s sedan, is a rite of passage from child to emerging adult.

With the all-important learner’s permit, a teenager has embarked on their journey to independence; once they pass those 30 all-important traffic and road safety questions they are ready to drive, or at least take a first spin around the local shopping center parking lot.

Prescott High School sophomore Cutter Todd took his permit test in late March or early April, following that up with a Drivers Education course at the high school in August. He earned a certificate for the course that enabled him to get his license without any further testing.

“The day I got it (his permit) I drove to my house with both of my parents. It was scary,” admits Cutter, who immediately started practicing in empty parking lots until he was ready for the highway. “I drove all the way back and forth to Blythe, California, a good four-hour drive.”

Arizona law allows students who have completed a public or private high school Drivers Education course to obtain their license without a MVD-administered road test as long as they complete 30 hours of mandatory classroom instruction and six hours of behind-the-wheel instruction, or have 30 hours of supervised driving practice, 10 of those hours at night. Drivers must have their permit at least five months prior to seeking their license.

In preparation for the permit test, Cutter said he carefully read and studied the Arizona Driver License Manual that he picked up at the local Department of Motor Vehicles Office before taking the 30-question test.

“It was reasonably hard,” Cutter recalled. “You had to study for it to pass. If you went in without studying, you’d be done.”

The MVD does allow up to three do-overs, but as Todd said it’s nice to pass on the first time, not only is it morale boost but it is also less expensive. The instruction permit costs $7 each time, and the license fee for those 16 to 39 years old is $25. Drivers younger than 21 are issued a vertical rather than horizontal license.

In Arizona, drivers are issued an extended license that does not expire until age 65, although photo and vision screening must be updated every 12 years. Address changes are also required to be made within a 10-day period of any move.

Fellow sophomore Andrew Salberg, who turned 16 on Nov. 22, was able to get his permit through the Drivers Education course that offered information packets and videos to help students understand road rules. As part of the 15-student class, Andrew said instructor Michael Gilpin enlarged a copy of the state manual and highlighted areas the students would need to know. Like his friend, Andrew answered all the permit questions correctly.

The Motor Vehicle Division of the Arizona Department of Transportation, between November 2015 and November 2016, issued 56,891 Class G instruction permits to drivers younger than 18. In that same period, the MVD issued 38,687 Class G driver licenses, said Doug Nick, the department’s assistant communication director for community outreach.

Nick said the department does not have statistics on how many permits are issued on a repeat test.

Asked what drivers seem to consider the hardest questions on the test, Nick said that is too subjective to judge. But he noted parallel parking is no longer a prerequisite for passing a road test.

Instead, ADOT has replaced that requirement with three-point parking that is more commonly used in daily driving situations, Nick said.

Cutter said the permit questions he found to be most difficult had to with the distance a driver needs to be away from things such as a bicyclist or a fire engine. Andrew and he also agreed that intersection protocol, rules related to turning right when the traffic light is red, and making left turns on a green traffic light took some practice.

They said the roundabouts and multiple lanes are also challenging.

Both boys said they strive to adhere to all of the traffic laws, particularly speed limits, and are glad they opted to spend a couple hundred dollars for a drivers education course. Cutter said he would even suggest it be a little longer, and offer more time on the road.

How well did the permit test prepare them?

“It kind of helped,” Andrew said of learning the road signs and basic traffic laws, “but you really have to have the driving experience. That’s what makes you more confident when you are driving.”