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Connecticut toughens requirements for new adult drivers

Eric Furman

An adult who wants a first-time driver’s license in Connecticut now must jump over a big hurdle.

Under a state law that took effect Jan. 1, 2013, new drivers 18 and older now must hold a three-month learner’s permit before taking a road test to get a driver’s license.

Each year, more than 30,000 new drivers will be affected by this law, according to the Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles. The law even hits those who delayed getting a license until after their 18th birthdays to avoid restrictions on 16- and 17-year-old drivers, such as a mandatory safe driving course and a ban on nighttime driving.

If you live in Connecticut, how will this affect you? 

1. Some exceptions are in place. The law provides an exception for any adult who took the 25-question written test before Jan. 1, 2013. These folks have until April 1, 2013, to obtain a license and won’t need a learner’s permit. Also until April 1, any adult who is undergoing on-the-road training with a licensed instructor is exempted.

2. Several tests must be taken. An adult applicant will receive a learner’s permit once he passes the written test as well as a vision test. After 90 days, the applicant can take a road test. While holding the learner’s permit, a new adult driver must be behind the wheel with a licensed instructor or with a qualified driver who’s at least 20 years old. A new driver also must take an eight-hour safety course at a driving school.

Why the change?

The short answer: Safety.

“Cars are more sophisticated today, traveling roads can be more dangerous for inexperienced drivers, and some form of a learning period is required now for those over 18, just as we have done for those under 18,” Connecticut DMV Commissioner Melody Currey says in a news release.

Connecticut is adjusting to the realities of modern driving.

“Roadways are larger, speed limits are higher, traffic congestion is a daily occurrence, road rage is on the rise, and vehicles have changed,” says Karen Morton, program director of driver licensing at the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators.

“The days when the only distraction was a passenger in the car, a radio, or something to eat or drink are long gone,” says Morton, citing cellphones and GPS as modern-day distractions. “Even experienced drivers have difficulty focusing on driving in the midst of all the ‘noise.’”

Who’s next?

Connecticut is not the first state to require learner’s permits for adult drivers; Maryland and New Jersey have enacted similar laws. However, Connecticut is a step ahead of bigger states like New York, Pennsylvania and California.

“None of the big states apply the requirements to all novice drivers regardless of age,” Morton says. However, she adds, they do require longer permit periods and significantly more supervised driving time.

Morton says she thinks Connecticut has made impressive improvements in licensing drivers.

“Inexperience behind the wheel is not limited to young drivers. Graduated driver’s licensing introduces novice drivers to driving in a low-risk way and allows them to progress through the stages as they develop their driving skills,” she says.

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