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Getting a Drivers License in Los Angeles

How to Get on the Road in LA

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How to Get a Driver's License in Los Angeles

Photo: Megan Maloy/ Getty Images

LA is unfortunately not the best when it comes to a ubiquitous public transportation system, but rather a driving city, so many people feel 'naked' without a license.

If you're under 18, chances are you're chomping at the bit to get your license and get on the road. But the state of California requires that first-time under-18 drivers obtain a learner's permit and go through lots of training before getting a license.

If you're a senior citizen of age 70 or older, you must go to your local Department of Motor Vehicles office in person to renew your drivers license.

Just visiting? If you're over 18 and already have a valid driver's license from your state (or country), you are allowed to drive here without getting a California license provided you have a valid home state license.

If you love LA as much as I do and have decided to stay and become a California resident, the law requires that you get your drivers license within 10 days of establishing your residency. The latter is done by voting in a local election, paying resident tuition or, for example, filing for homeowner's property tax exemption.

What follows is a basic rundown of the steps towards getting your drivers license in LA, along with some additional resources to help you on the road to becoming a real Angelino.

Steps to Getting a Drivers License in LA if You're Over 18:

  1. Make an appointment with your local DMV office (note: you can also walk in without an appointment but calling in advance ensures quicker service)
  2. Complete and submit form DL 44
  3. Give your thumb print
  4. Get your photo taken
  5. Provide your social security number
  6. Verify your birthdate, legality and full birth name
  7. Pay the application fee
  8. Take and pass an eye exam (and have 20/40 or better vision)
  9. Take and pass a traffic laws and signs exam of 36 questions (you may retake the test twice if you do not pass the first time)

Steps to Getting a Drivers License in LA if You're a First-Time Teen Driver (15 1/2 to 17 1/2 years of age)

  1. Take and complete DMV approved drivers education (online or in a classroom setting) lasting 30+ hours in order to receive form OL 237 which enables you to take your drivers permit test at your local DMV
  2. Take six hours + behind-the-wheel training at a certified commercial driving school to receive form OL 392
  3. Make an appointment at your local DMV for the drivers permit test
  4. Fill out application form DL44, take the written traffic law test to get your permit
  5. Take your first driving lesson with a licensed instructor
  6. Practice driving with a parent, guardian or driver of 25 years or older (with a valid drivers license) for six months completing 50+ hours of driving (including six hours with a licensed instructor, ten night time driving hours)
  7. Make an appointment with your local DMV
  8. Show proof of drivers training completion, get your parent, guardian or instructor to sign your permit
  9. Obtain valid vehicle registration and insurance
  10. Take your drivers test

Los Angeles Driver’s Education, Training and License Checklist, the Basics

  • Make sure your driving school’s driver's education course fulfills California DMV education requirements
  • Verify that your school has been licensed by the State of California through the DMV and that they are bonded and insured by reputable insurance companies
  • Make special arrangements (or choose your school accordingly) if you are seeking to learn to drive a stick shift vehicle
  • Bring verification of your birth date and proof of legal presence within the U.S.

Additional Driver’s Education Resources and Options

  • The DMV has sample written drivers license tests on its website as well as a driving knowledge tutorial
  • YouTube features short videos created by the DMV to help you pass your test; videos include, 'Top Ten Reasons People Fail the Driving Test'
  • The DMV encourage people to register as organ and tissue donors when they receive their license; request a sign-up form if interested

For People with Disabilities or Non-Native Speakers the DMV Provides Tests in:

  • Foreign languages
  • American Sign Language
  • Via audio cassette tape
  • Through a person-to-person exam during which an examiner will ask you questions

    Driving Schools in LA: How They Work

    If you are a first-time teen driver (between 15 1/2 and 17 1/2), in many cases, your high school will have a drivers education program already in place. There are also many choices in terms of driving schools, for both teens and adults (including senior citizens).

    Driving schools are generally comprehensive and varied in their services. These days, they tend to include: traffic school, online driver’s education training, classroom driver’s education training, and behind-the-wheel training. Many offer special packages that include everything first-time teen drivers require to make it from pre-permit to license.

    Training is usually by the hour with multiple hour packages available, typically from one to 30 hours. Some schools offer an automatic or stick shift option. They provide different types of basic vehicles but a newer trend is to offer instruction in driving hybrid cars such as Priuses as well.

    It is pretty common for driving schools to offer pickup and drop-off on driving test days (including one or two hours of practice at the DMV). Most driving schools have area parameters so make sure to check that a given school covers driving instruction in your neighborhood.

    LA Area Driving Schools and Their Specialties

    Abel’s Driving School
    Specialties: Online driver’s education, teen special packages including online and behind-the-wheel instruction

    Delta Driving School
    Specialty: Online price quotes for teen and adult drivers

    EG Driving School
    Specialties: Mature drivers and seniors welcome, car rental for DMV tests

    Ford Driving School
    Specialties: Online driver’s education courses and online course demos, also hosts traffic school

    Melrose Driving Schoo
    Specialties: Online teen and adult practice tests, all new model cars including Priuses

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