Archive for Monday, December 28, 2009

Teens rush to avoid license restrictions

The line was long Tuesday, Dec. 22, at the Driver's License bureau as the rush to beat the new restrictions on teens that take effect after the first of the year. Jill Fincher of Lawrence watches as her daughter Zoe, 14, right,  studies the manual while waiting in line.

The line was long Tuesday, Dec. 22, at the Driver's License bureau as the rush to beat the new restrictions on teens that take effect after the first of the year. Jill Fincher of Lawrence watches as her daughter Zoe, 14, right, studies the manual while waiting in line.

December 28, 2009


What to bring to the driver’s license bureau

Delbert Thomas, supervisor of the Driver’s License Bureau in Lawrence, in the I-70 Business Center at 1035 N. Third, reminds teens to bring these essential items when getting in line for an Instruction Permit or driver’s license:

• Birth certificate. You must have a state-certified copy, not a laminated card or a photocopy. “It can’t just be notarized,” he said.

• Social Security number. The card isn’t necessary, just the number.

• A parent or legal guardian. An uncle or a grandparent is fine, but only if the uncle or grandparent is your legal guardian. “They’ll have to sign an affidavit,” Thomas said. The parent or guardian also must have a valid ID card or driver’s license with a Kansas address, or some other proof-of-address for the child, such as a school report card sent through the U.S. Mail.

• Corrective lenses, if necessary. There will be a vision test.

• Money. The bureau accepts payments in cash or by check. No check cards. No credit cards.

Teens are pulling into a large parking lot in North Lawrence and crowding into a small storefront in the I-70 Business Center — all intent on squeezing through an ever-shrinking window in the calend

ar for securing an unrestricted driver’s license.

With new rules for teen drivers set to take effect Jan. 1, applications for Kansas licenses are up 50 percent at the Department of Motor Vehicles in the I-70 Business Center. The vast majority are from teens standing in line with their parents, clutching birth certificates and hoping to pass their first written exams outside of a formal classroom.

Ace the tests, and such licensees and holders of permits will be free to continue driving as others their age always have. No special rules about having a licensed driver at least 21 years old in the passenger seat, or being limited to driving only during specific hours, or being banned from talking or texting or doing anything else behind the wheel with a wireless communication device other than to summon help in an emergency.

“I just want to drive,” said Scott Lounsbury, a 14-year-old eighth-grader from Eudora who fiddled with his licensing exam book while passing the time in line. “I don’t even have a phone.”

Such youngsters are eager to embrace their grandfathered status, which give them a chance to drive earlier in their lives, for longer periods at a time, and with fewer restrictions than those who wait until the new year.

Delbert Thomas, the bureau’s supervisor, said the increased demand isn’t making his already complicated life any easier. Thanks to state budget cuts, his office at 1035 N. Third St., Suite 122, has been short-staffed during the past six months.

Now, with the new teen restrictions poised to hit the books on Jan. 1, he’s been forced to deal out warnings as his lines lengthen and payroll remains static. Even getting fill-in help from offices in Emporia and elsewhere has proven inconsistent.

“It’s crazy in here,” he said.

So follow his advice: Show up early. Be patient. And remember that while the office normally is open from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, the place is closed for holidays and may close a bit early on Thursday, New Year’s Eve.

Anyone looking to take a behind-the-wheel driving test must reach the bureau’s front desk — that’s not merely waiting in line, but actually advancing to the front of the line and dealing with a real-life examiner — by 4 p.m. to be helped on a given day, Thomas said. Anyone simply needing to take a written test must make it to the front of the line by 5 p.m. to be served.

“We shut the doors at 5:30,” he said.

The crunch is amassing statewide, said Terry Mitchell, chief examiner for the Driver’s License Bureau. An office in Wichita had teens lined up out the door soon after opening at 7 a.m. recently; the office in Burlington saw 30 teens on Dec. 18, or about the same number that normally would have come in over two weeks.

The totals only look to increase as Dec. 31 approaches this week.

“People see a line and they say, ‘Ah, I’ll come back,’” Mitchell said. “Don’t wait until the last minute.”

Bradley Harris isn’t worried. The 15-year-old sophomore at Free State High School spent more than three hours in line last Tuesday before walking out with a renewal of his restricted license a day before it was to expire.

He already had been grandfathered out of the new rules, but he and his dad wanted to get the renewal taken care of before their family hit the road for a 10-hour trip to Kentucky for the holidays.

“It wasn’t real bad,” Bradley said, “but the line kept getting longer and longer.”

All this, as the time for his friends and fellow teens to beat the deadline keeps getting shorter and shorter.


gccs14r 8 years, 2 months ago

I can appreciate a kid wanting to get a license. I can also appreciate a parent wanting his kid to get a license. What passes for driver's ed is woefully inadequate, though. Holy cow. I was already fully licensed and had ten years of experience when I took driver's ed in high school (don't ask--I didn't have the best parenting) and I can tell you that what is taught barely describes the art of driving, much less imparts any useful information about how to actually succeed at driving. Having a softball coach read from a script and do a ride-along with a chicken brake while a kid negotiates a set of cones hardly qualifies as driver training. The 50 hours of observed driving the state requires should be 50 hours with a state-certified driving instructor under all conditions (including nighttime ice and snow), not a declared 50 hours from dad. If a kid isn't absolutely petrified the first time he merges into real traffic, he hasn't been taught just how dangerous driving really is.

Currahee 8 years, 2 months ago

So that's why there was a very long line for two days in a row. It kinda ticked me off because at one point the line was RIDICULOUS. Like it was going hard core looping around in the waiting area. Any of you folks who need a renewal may want to wait to go in at 9-10AM. When I went there there was a small line... certainly not the hour long wait I had to endure.

... I really don't wanna see 14 year olds at the wheel...

gccs14r 8 years, 2 months ago

"… I really don't wanna see 14 year olds at the wheel…"

It depends on the 14-year-old. Most of them should probably not even be passengers in a vehicle, much less driving one, but if one demonstrates both skill and maturity, then sure, why not. I have that opinion for lots of activities, though, not just driving. We Americans tend to make rules based on age, not maturity. It'd be nice if we could treat people as individuals, rather than lump them all together on arbitrary boundaries.

kusp8 8 years, 2 months ago

gccs14r (Anonymous) says… "It'd be nice if we could treat people as individuals, rather than lump them all together on arbitrary boundaries."

I agree, but just like in elementary school; when one kids puts their gum under the desk it ruins it for the whole class. To me it's the same principle being applied here.

grimpeur 8 years, 2 months ago

They need to ban the use of phones--not just texting--for all drivers. And there should be a graduated licensing system for vehicles over, say, 4,000 lbs, or over 200 hp. For all drivers. You don't know the stopping distance of your Ford Exhibitionist in rain? Then you shouldn't be in one. You don't know what a safe following distance is? You don't know enough to slow down in the snow? You don't know better than to use the phone while driving? Then you shouldn't be driving. Dad bought you an Explorer for your own safety while you're speeding, tailgating, running red lights and blocking the sidewalks and crosswalks with your phone glued to the side of your empty head? Then you're both fools.

Nikki May 8 years, 2 months ago

The restrictions aren't horrible. So what if they can only have one non-related kid with them? Of course, I remember when I was in highschool, one person would drive several kids home, and we were safe, but it's just a minor issue if you can only take one friend.

labmonkey 8 years, 2 months ago

I drove when I was 14 and that extra year of experience helped me in my later teen years (and drove more miles by the time I was 18 than many had driven by 40). Any adult who wants to tighten restrictions on teens are totally disingenious as they have forgotten the excitement of receiving their own license.

Grimpeur- agreed. Ban cell-phone use for all drivers...or at least make drinking and driving legal so the law is at least consistant.

overthemoon 8 years, 2 months ago

I am appalled that parents rush to help their kids drive at 14. They'll be just as excited to get a license at 16--like used to be the norm--and they will be on the other side of the adolescent brain building that happens around the ages of 12-15.

I was mad as he!! when my kid's friends were allowed, and even encouraged, by their parents to drive with 6 or 7 of other people's children packed into small cars. Some were even given their own cars at 14. Kids can wait and the parents can shoulder their responsibility to get them where they need to go for another two years.

Currahee 8 years, 2 months ago

gccs, in the end it's all about maturity. There are 14 year olds out there who act more mature for their age I'm sure.

The only thing is we have to look at the majority of the kids. We just can't say "Oh this kid is more mature than that kid so let's give him a license whereas the other one can't get one." It would be too expensive, the guidelines would be vague, and kids could "fake" being mature if given a "maturity test" not to mention ethical ramifications of such a thing.

Sure the outliers get screwed. But I think it's better screwing over a minority than benefiting a majority that could be hazardous on the road.

AlligatorMama 8 years, 2 months ago

I think it all depends on the kid and the parents. I had my learners permit at 14 and drove everywhere with my parents. Did drivers ed, got my restricted when I was 15 and helped buy myself a car...drove to and from school and work for a whole year. By the time I was 16 I had two solid years of driving with parents and supervision. I have yet to have an accident in my life and I feel I'm a better driver because I had those two years under my belt. Plus helping pay for my car made me take better care of it!!

I do think restrictions on cell phones and having passengers in the car is a good idea! I wasn't allowed to drive with anyone other than my parents until I was 16. Kept me focused.

salad 8 years, 2 months ago

AlligatorMama (Anonymous) says… "I think it all depends on the kid and the parents."

No it doesn't. 14 is too young to be responsible for piloting a 3 ton hunk of metal in public places. Driving age should be 18.

monkey_c 8 years, 2 months ago

"And there should be a graduated licensing system for vehicles over, say, 4,000 lbs, or over 200 hp. For all drivers." That's no fun.

cantbelievemyeyes 8 years, 2 months ago

"salad (Anonymous) says… No it doesn't. 14 is too young to be responsible for piloting a 3 ton hunk of metal in public places. Driving age should be 18."

Wow, can you imagine all the accidents and deaths there would be if this happened? What an ignorant statement.

The more experience people have at the wheel the better they drive. Kids need to start driving with responsible supervision early. They need to have years of experience so they know how to handle situations when they drive on thier own. To do other wise is folly. To send them out on thier own and say, "hey, your on your own, start driving and taking care of your self! " Is irresponsible parenting and poor judgement.

Alligatormama, I'm with you!

bevy 8 years, 2 months ago

This article has factual errors in it as well as being misleading in other areas. The current law regarding restricted licenses, which the students are hurrying to get grandfathered in under, has most of the same regs it had when I was in high school (and got my restricted license at 14.) The problem is, many parents don't know/follow the rules for a restricted license. One holding a restricted license can: 1. Drive to and from school, ONCE PER DAY. (That's once to and once from. Not to school, then home, then back to practice, then home. Not to pick up their friend, then to school, then drop off the friend, then home. To and from, by the most direct route, ONCE per day.) This is the one I see abused most. 2. Drive to and from work ONCE PER DAY.
3. Do farm related work (I think that's still in there, but honestly not sure.) Not "run errands for parents" like it was when my folks were learning back in the 60s. 4. Drive anywhere, anytime, with a passenger in the front seat who is over age 18 (not 21 as stated in the article) and who has been licensed to drive for at least one year.

The 50 hours of drive time relates to the learner's permit, not the restricted license.

All that being said, I agree that Driver Ed programs have been gutted in recent years. They are basically a "how to pass your written test" class. My dad taught DE for many years, and he is disgusted and dismayed by what passes for driver training nowadays. We were taught defensive driving techniques under many different conditions, and also learned safety related things like how to change a tire. Of course cell phones weren't around back then. And our class was free, we received school credit for it. Even the insurance companies know the current programs are useless - most no longer offer discounts for students who have completed Driver Ed. I taught my girls to drive myself, with dad's help. I also made them wait until age 15 to start. Mostly because I couldn't afford the insurance increase any sooner.

Nikki May 8 years, 2 months ago

Bevy, I used to try to get out of driving saying that I could only drive to work or school, to which my parents would say they hired me to pick up my brother from school.

Paul R Getto 8 years, 2 months ago

I hope none of these helicopter moms rushing the kids to the license line have to attend any teen funerals in the next couple of years. What a crock. I know I'm an old guy, but still remember not being allowed to even take D.E. until I was sixteen, then begging for what seemed like forever before the parents would let me drive. After I worked in the emergency room for a while in college, I could see what they were worried about. The statistics tell the tale.

Christine Anderson 8 years, 2 months ago

I did driver's ed in Wi in the early '80's. When we turned precisely 15 and one-half, we could take a written test and be given a learner's permit. Then followed no less than 6 months of driving supervised by an adult. To be honest, I don't remember if it had to be a parent or not. The day we turned 16 we could go take a written and road test and receive a full license. There was no graduated system then. My mom drove me nuts; made me way too nervous to practice driving with her. She "farmed" me out to practice under the supervision of some of her friends. I was relieved. I don't know that our high school's D.E. was all that thorough. Sure it was free then, but our instructor had been in three accidents which were his fault. Yes, the D.E. teacher. LOL. Anyway, I flunked the road test twice in Wi before I turned 18. The second time, I flunked because I ran over the curb on a right turn. Nope, I wasn't ready to drive. Ended up waiting until I was 22, living out in Garden City. An older couple let me take their mega truck out on my own to practice. ( It was still a small town then.) I finally took the test. The examiner was the mother of a classmate. All went well, until we came back into the parking lot of the dmv. The examiner had not put her seat belt on. I hit a speed bump-examiner bounced up and hit her head on the "ceiling" of the car. I busted out laughing. And yes, I still passed.

gccs14r 8 years, 2 months ago

"14 is too young to be responsible for piloting a 3 ton hunk of metal in public places."

The FAA disagrees with you.

SWJayhawk13 8 years, 2 months ago

I agree that cell phone usage/texting should be banned for all drivers, not just 14-year-olds. I also agree that driver's ed was a joke. Then again, I shouldn't be too suprised. When I went to renew my license this year, they sent me a take-home test WITH the answers! I thought it was impossible to fail, but while I was there, three people failed it...

In my opinion, 14-year-olds should not be allowed to drive with other kids in the car, and it should be required for them to have an adult (at least 21) in the car with them at all times and they shouldn't be allowed to use cell phones while driving. Most of the kids I took driver's ed with were not responsible enough to be driving as soon as they did. The only reason they took driver's ed was so that their insurance would be cheaper.

saoirseglen 8 years, 2 months ago

Apparently taking drivers education and having years of experience have little effect on drivers if the way college students and even adults drive in Lawrence is any indication.

I am not a perfect driver myself, but I do know that sometimes there are specific situations where following the letter of the law may create a higher probability of an accident over bending it slightly for the conditions that exist in a specific moment. I try to drive as well as I possibly can, but everyone can make mistakes.

Punishing all teenagers for what a few teens do is not something I can support. Then again, perhaps we should have a system like in some European countries: You cannot get a license to drive anything up to a 2.0 liter engine until you are 21 and then you cannot obtain a license to drive anything over a 2.0 liter engine until age 25. In both cases you would need to spend at least one full year attending a driving school at a cost of at least a few thousand dollars per program.

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