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Teens Line Up to Dodge New Driving Rules

July 01, 1998|BRENDA LOREE

Standing in line at the Department of Motor Vehicles is seldom anyone's first choice of how to spend time. But dozens of Ventura County teens were glad they qualified for the queue Tuesday.

They were the 15- and 16-year-olds who showed up on the last possible day to apply for learners' permits under the DMV's old, less strict rules.

The old rules--invalid as of today--allowed a 16-year-old to take the provisional driver's test after only 30 days of holding an instruction permit. The new rules include a wait of six months.

The old rules allowed a provisional license holder to drive after midnight. Today's rules say new licensees can't drive that late unless accompanied by a parent or someone older than 25.

"That's the new restriction bothering teens the most," said Bill Gengler, DMV communications director. "It's not wanting to be seen with an older person."

Three teens in the Ventura DMV line Tuesday said another new restriction is even worse than not being allowed to drive between midnight and 5 a.m. It's a rule that--for the first six months of the licensing period--forbids teenagers with provisional licenses from having anyone younger than 20 in their cars at any hour, unless an older person--someone over 25--is in the car too.

"The No. 1 reason I want to get in under the wire is I want to drive around with my friends," said 16-year-old Lauren Loft of Somis.

Tyanna Vallejo and Kelly Johnson, both Ventura 15-year-olds, stood in line Tuesday for the same reason.

"I don't want to have to wait six months to drive with my friends," Kelly said.

Mike Pacheco, another Ventura 15-year-old, said that he had shown up on the last day of the old rules "because the whole batch of new restrictions is just too big a hassle. Fifty extra hours of driving practice, for instance."

Few of the teens had studied the California Driver Handbook before taking the test.

Coral Ferguson, 17, read a novel while she waited her turn. Kelly at first said she hadn't studied her DMV manual at all, then amended that. "Well, I looked at it," she said. "I worry about the ones like 'How many feet do you stop from the railroad track?' "

Statistically, Gengler said, although 16-year-olds have the worst driving record of any age group, most teens manage to pass the written test on their first try, while "half of adults fail it on the first attempt."

The number of teens applying for permits has increased 35% recently because of the desire to dodge the new restrictions, he said.

But for those teens who must now bide their time under the DMV's stricter new driving laws, there is light at the end of the tunnel. "Once you turn 18, the restrictions no longer apply," says the DMV handbook.

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