Learners Permit – Alcohol increases your ability to drive

When I moved to London, I was lucky enough to be able to transfer my Aussie License into a UK one.  This is fortunate, as I’ve heard the UK drivers test is quite hard, and includes the greatest hits such as reversing around a corner and reversing into a parking bay (the Brits really like driving in reverse).

Unfortunately this isn’t the case in New York – I need to start from scratch – I need… to get my Learners Permit.

The process is relatively simple:

  • Read and review the NY Driver’s Manual;
  • Take a test at the dreaded DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles); and
  • Pay your tributes to the NY State.

The manual itself was OK, although it’s a sloppy document.  Why, for example, would you provide an accurate visual guide for one sort of sign, and an inaccurate one for another?

Exhibit A : Visual representation matches description
Exhibit B : Why oh why aren’t these signs yellow?

It also includes mind-bending sentences such as:

“At an intersection controlled by a STOP sign, YIELD sign or traffic light, there can be a white stop line painted across the lane, and/ or two parallel lines or light, you must reach the stop line, if there is one, or the crosswalk. You need a stop line or crosswalk if required to by a light, sign or traffic officer, or to yield to a pedestrian, in-line skater or scooter at a marked or unmarked crosswalk.”

Once swotted up, I went to the DMV to take my test.  Everything I have ever heard about the DMV lead me to believe I was entering the seventh circle of hades, however I think it was closer to the second.

I was expecting a fairly comprehensive test.  What I got was basically this:

There were 20 questions.  At least 50% of the questions (and it felt like more) were on drinking while driving.

What really disturbed me was the time my fellow test-taker took on the test.  I got through the questions in about 5 minutes.  Let’s just say that by the time he finished the test I’d:

  • queued for and filed my paperwork;
  • taken an eye test;
  • queued for and was in the process of paying for my permit.

One other objective I had at the DMV was to clarify when I can and cannot drive without a “supervising driver”.  You see, the DMV website clearly states:

“If driver license from another country and I have a NYS learner permit [sic]. Can I drive without a supervising driver?

Yes. Your valid foreign driver license allows you to drive without a supervising driver. You can drive on any street, road, highway, bridge, or tunnel, except in a DMV road test area.”

I was nervous how this would translate in other states.  I asked the very friendly lady behind the counter:

“So, you know how you can drive unaccompanied if you have both a foreign drivers license and a New York learners permit…”

“Oh, you can’t do that.”

“… but it says so on your website.”

“Let me check.  HAROLD, CAN YOU DRIVE UNACCOMPANIED IF YOU HAVE A LEARNERS PERMIT AND A FOREIGN LICENSE?”

“No.”

So, who’s got two thumbs and won’t be driving unaccompanied?  I’m sure the printed rules are right, but if the DMV don’t know their own rules, I just can’t believe that your local traffic cop will – and that’s not situation I want to be in.

Guess I’ll need to take the drivers test sooner rather than later.

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