february 2013

Learn what's happening with motor vehicle enforcement around the country.

Region I

Connecticut Implements New Law for Adult Learner’s Permit

Marking a change in 106 years of licensing drivers in Connecticut, the state DMV has implemented a new requirement of all adults 18 and older seeking first-time licenses.

Beginning January 1, the state now requires all new adult drivers to hold a three-month learner’s permit before taking a road test toward becoming licensed.

Many states offer some form of learner’s permit for adults, but the change makes Connecticut one of just a few states to actually require it. Those individuals who already have a current license in another state are exempt.

In order to obtain the learner’s permit, a potential driver must first pass a 25-question knowledge test as well as a vision test administered by the DMV, and must take the current eight-hour safe driving practices course at a driving school as required by law passed in 2008.

The change was prompted by an increase in the number of those who delay getting a license until they are over 18, as well as rising dangers associated with driving.

“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,” DMV Commissioner Melody Currey said upon announcing the change in December.

The DMV expects the new requirement to impact 30,000 people annually including 11,000 18- and 19-year-olds who have delayed applying for their licenses to skirt additional requirements that apply to 16- and 17-year-old applicants.

Region II

Georgia DMVs Offer Online Wait List Updates

Drivers in Georgia now have the option to check and compare average wait times online for their local customer service licensing centers.

Through the state’s Department of Driver Services (DDS) website, customers can enter their ZIP codes or click their locations on a map to find out the average wait times for their closest licensing centers.

The system works on a color-coded basis with the shortest wait times listed in green and the longest wait times listed in red. The estimates are offered to help drivers compare wait times among licensing centers nearby.

“I am excited to offer customers the ability to make an informed decision about when and where to conduct their driver’s licensing business,” said Rob Mikell, DDS Commissioner. “This process can go very smoothly with just a little planning.”

The average wait times are meant to provide a comparison between different customer service centers, however, and are not meant to provide a real-time wait estimate.

Georgia’s DDS finds the middle of the week and the middle of the day are the best times to visit for the shortest wait times, and that Tuesday is the busiest day to visit throughout the state.

The wait times can be accessed by visiting the Georgia Department of Driver Services website.

Region III

Ignition Interlock Program Changes in Manitoba

Any drivers in Manitoba convicted of impaired driving are now subject to a required Ignition Interlock Program designed to prevent people from consuming alcohol and then getting behind the wheel.

Beginning on December 15, 2012, those convicted of a first or second impaired driving offense are now subject to the program for one year; for a third offense, three years; and for any subsequent convictions, for life.

Participants who have been recently convicted are required to be instated in the program as soon as their license suspension ends and they reapply for a license.

Those subject to the Ignition Interlock Program must have an Interlock device installed in their vehicles—wired through the automobile’s ignition. In order for the vehicle to start, the device must receive a clean breath sample. Once the vehicle has been started, the driver must also provide random breath samples in order to keep moving. If the device detects any amount of alcohol, it will trigger an alarm and will record the incident.

Manitoba drivers who are currently servicing a license suspension due to an impaired driving conviction or a Tiered Administrative License Suspension may also be eligible for voluntary participation in the program. All program participants are responsible for the fees associated with administration, installation and monitoring, which amount to around $505 total.

Region IV

Washington Eyes “Road Usage Charge”

If a current initiative becomes a reality, drivers in Washington State could face a charge for every mile they clock on the state’s roadways.

Looking into the possibility of a “road usage charge” to counteract the state’s high fuel taxes, Transportation Secretary Paula Hammond told a local radio news show that the charge could boost transportation funding while also cutting down on the taxes consumers face currently.

“We’re going to start engaging with the public and try and understand what people think about the risks, the opportunities, and some of those things,” Hammond told KIRO Radio’s Ross and Burbank show in December.

Part of the problem is the rising number of miles traveled while fuel efficiency fails to keep up, Hammond said. The imbalance has cut into tax revenues on gas not just in Washington, but also nationwide.

The feasibility of the program is a major hurdle, however, since tracking mileage among drivers is possible, but may not be appealing to drivers.

A late 2012 report issued by The Washington State Road Usage Charge Assessment Steering Committee found the program is feasible, citing the many different devices including GPS and smartphone apps that can track mileage. Privacy, then, becomes a major issue in terms of gaining consumer support. “Privacy is such a big hurdle for folks,” Hammond said. “We want to understand what they think about that more.”

The Washington State Department of Transportation will seek $3.5 million in state funding to explore the option further.