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?
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?”
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.