CONYERS, Ga. - Conyers, Ga.---It's been a trend the last decade or so...fewer teen drivers are turning 15 and rushing to get their driver's permit. The laws have changed and it's not as easy for teenagers to hit the road as it used to be. There's more steps and rightfully so, because it's a big responsibility.
Lauren James is your typical 16 year old. She couldn't wait to get her driver's license. "Oh no, I wanted it like right away," she says.
During the summer, the Department of Driver's Services is packed with teenagers eager to get their hands on the wheel. "It is definitely our busiest time. Kids are out of school and they start thinking about where they can go and visit while they're out," explains the Commissioner of Georgia's DDS, Bert Brantley.
Many teen drivers, however, are also putting the brakes on the rush to get their license. Angelo Jones is 18 and decided he's now ready for the responsibility. "When I was 16 I didn't really care, but I live in an area where there's like MARTA and stuff so like...why get my license now," Angelo shares.
Getting a license these days requires more effort, which drives some teens away, others can't afford their own car, so don't see the need in a license, and some teens are just nervous or scared. "I think we have done a good job of talking about the dangers of driving and I think a lot of kids are just scared to drive. We don't want them to be scared but we do want them to appreciate how dangerous it can be if they're not doing it safely," adds Brantley.
To apply for a license, drivers between 16 and 18 years old have to complete an approved driver's education course and 40 hours of supervised driving time. They also have to prove they're enrolled in school. "It really is so critically important to know all the rules of the road, know how to be safe, know how to pay attention to your surroundings," Brantley says.
Georgia also has a graduated license system. Until they're 18, teens can't drive between midnight and 5am. In an effort to curb distractions, initially they can't drive with any passengers unless they're family members.
"There are rules around when you can drive, who you can be with and then as you get older, those restrictions start to ease up, one by one until you get to 18 and then by that point, at 18, you're a fully licensed adult driver, just like everyone else," Brantley explains.
Even though getting your hands on a license has changed, the worry about parallel parking will never go away. "I'm excited, but kind of nervous for parking," adds Lauren.
"Maybe parallel parking, because I only practiced it one time," Angelo says.
Also, remember... you have to hold your instructional permit for one year plus one day, before you qualify to get your license. So if you wait to get your permit, you'll have to wait to get the license too.
The 2016 Driver's Manual is on the website, http://www.dds.ga.gov/. You can study it online, or request a physical copy be mailed to you.