New Georgia driving test laws
By Jessica Turner
Senior Staff Writer


New London School of Driving students (from left) Matt Burrows, Holly Hibbert,
George Evagoras and Stephanie Coursey will be able to take their driving test from
private driving instructors like Alan Deighton (rear). Photo by Jessica Turner

LOGANVILLE - Starting this summer, lines at the Department of Driver Services might just be shorter.

As of July 1, the Department of Driver Services (DDS), formerly the Department of Motor Vehicle Services, is now the issuing department for driving permits and licenses. In an effort to alleviate long wait times for driving tests needed by Georgia students, DDS is now allowing authorized private driving schools to administer on-the-road driving skills tests. Students who complete the required thirty hours classroom time and six hours of behind-the-wheel driving time (referred to as 30/6) will be eligible to take their skills test through their driving school.

“This is actually a particularly good program that the government has developed,” Alan Deighton, of the New London School of Driving in Loganville, said. “The man who has overseen the development of the program wants to do something good for the kids and actually cares about them.”

Deighton, who was initially “adamantly opposed to the program” felt that it was a conflict of interest for private driving schools, who are being paid by the parents of students, to test those students as well.

“How can we fail them?” Deighton proposed in an opinion published in the March 27 edition of the GwinnettNews, Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “As an industry, we have to ask ourselves, ‘If we teach a teenager to drive, could we objectively then test their road skills…could we fail a student who we taught to drive?’”

The program was created during the 2004 legislative session, passed as House Bill 1168, and created a six-month pilot program that involved eleven driver’s education schools. With the success of the pilot, other schools have been authorized to deliver and test the on-the-road skills test. New London is one of the local schools that will be administering the tests. Only schools that have been open for one year and have delivered driver’s training programs on a full-time basis for one year will be eligible to perform driving examinations.

Changes in state law now require that all on-the-road tests be given in real time traffic situations. This has dramatically increased the time necessary to administer the tests. Reservations for on-the-road tests administered through the DDS are mandatory and generally book twelve weeks in advance. These tests will still be administered through the DDS.

“We have created a course, that when it is approved by the department will be open to students two days a week for the test,” Deighton said.

A detailed examination has been delivered to all the participating schools. Basic skills will still be tested, including parallel parking and straight-line backing, but the examiner will also be able to score the driver’s “general driving behavior.” Parents may be put at ease with the fact that students will be tested in the school-owned vehicles, which are equipped with an emergency brake. In the event of an emergency situation, the examiner will be able to control the vehicle.

“The kids will also be much more at ease taking their tests with us,” Deighton continued. “Far too often at the DMV there is a great amount of tension in the car with the examiner. The kids know us and will be much more comfortable taking their test.”

Upon successful completion of the test, students will receive a certificate indicating that they are eligible for a license through the completion of a 30/6 Driver Training Course. Drivers are still required to show (on a form prescribed by the DDS) they have completed a course on alcohol and drugs before they are issued a driver’s license. All applicants under the age of 18 must provide a Certificate of Attendance as proof of enrollment in school or has received a GED, a high school diploma or has completed high school. Also required is proof of driving experience. If a teen does not take a driver education course, the teen must complete a cumulative total of at least 40 hours of supervised driving experience, including at least 6 hours at night. Supervised driving experience must be verified on an affidavit.

For teens that have taken an approved driver education course in a licensed private or public driver education school, then a cumulative total of at least 20 hours of supervised driving experience, including at least 6 hours at night is required. Supervised driving experience must be verified on an affidavit. A certificate of completion from the driver education school must be presented at time of application for a Class D Driver’s License.

Regular fees will apply for obtaining the license. Driver’s training schools will be allowed to charge a fee for the on-the-road skills test. This fee will cover the costs incurred from delivering the tests. Examinations will continue at the DDS without cost.

“I have been very encouraged by the enthusiasm of the DDS,” Deighton said.

Also in new driver’s laws, Senate Bill 226 also known as “Joshua’s Law” was passed during the 2005 General Assembly. According to the DDS website, beginning January 1, 2007, all 16 year-olds applying for a Class D driver’s license must complete an approved driver education course and complete a total of 40 hours of supervised driving, 6 hours of which must be at night, with a parent or guardian’s sworn verification that these requirements have been met. Any Georgia resident who has not completed an approved driver education course must be at least 17 years old to be eligible for a Class D driver’s license. He or she must have completed a total of at least 40 hours of supervised driving, including at least 6 hours at night. The same verification in writing by a parent or guardian is required.

For more information on the most up-to-date driver information, visit the Department of Driver Services website at www.dds.ga.gov or call 678-413-8746.