Sen. Andrew Gounardes thinks New York drivers need to spend more time learning to drive under the instruction of a professional instructor.
Gounardes, D-Brooklyn, has introduced S.8667 to require all driver or motorcycle license applicants in New York to take at least six hours of professional driver’s education.
Section 502 of the Vehicle and Traffic Law sets age and training requirements for aspiring drivers and motorcyclists across various license classifications. The most common drivers license, Class D, is the default license for all drivers age 18 and over, or age 17 for those with driver’s education. License applicants for Class D must bring proof of having taken a five-hour pre-licensing classroom course as well as a valid learners permit to their road test.
Class DJ, or Junior Operator license, is available to drivers age 16 or 17 outside of New York City or Long Island. Class DJ license applicants are subject to restricted hours, fewer passengers and higher penalties for traffic infractions than adult Class D drivers. Class DJ license applicants must also present a “Certification of Supervised Driving Form,” signed by a parent or guardian, certifying that the applicant has had at least 50 hours of supervised driving practice, including at least 15 hours at night and at least 10 in moderate to heavy traffic, before they can take a road test.
Gounardes said that the state Department of Motor Vehicles recommends that drivers of all ages practice driving prior to a test, there is nothing in statute or regulation to actually require license applicants to have on-road experience.
“This bill would require that all Class D or DJ license applicants have at least six hours experience operating a motor vehicle under the supervision of a professional driving school instructor prior to taking a road test,” Gounardes wrote in his legislative justification. “This bill would also include Class M or MJ motorcycle license applicants, who are subject to the same five-hour course and unenforceable affidavit as Class D and DJ drivers. It does not include Class D license applicants who are age 17 or younger, as they will already have been required to take drivers education in order to apply for a Class D license at such a young age.”
Similar laws in Louisiana, Connecticut and Maryland were passed several years ago. Gounardes said he envisions the professional instruction including sharing the road with pedestrians, bicyclists and commercial vehicles, how to handle intersections, lane changes and local traffic issues. Gounardes said new drivers would also be able to show they learned the concepts on the permit test and five-hour course.
“Mandatory road instruction would also allow drivers to receive feedback on their driving levels and areas needing improvement in advance of taking a road test, improving pass rates and better securing the safety of DMV examiners,” Gounardes wrote. “In requiring that new drivers have some amount of practical experience prior to taking a road test, New York can follow the lead of other states in ensuring that its aspiring motorists are as prepared as they can possibly be to safely share our public roadways.”