Driving Licence

It may be true nobody walks in LA, but in order to drive in California you need a class C driving licence or permit, as well as insurance for the vehicle you are driving. If you are just here for a visit and are over 18, you can use a valid licence from your home country, but California does not recognise the International Driving Permit (IDP).

Once you become a California resident (by voting in an election, procuring paid employment, paying resident tuition or availing yourself of any other benefit not ordinarily extended to non-residents), you have 10 days to apply for a California licence through the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). The DMV offers licences to those over 16 years old. To get yours, visit a DMV office and complete application form DL 44 (note that in signing this form, you consent to future drug or alcohol testing by an officer of the law). You will have to provide verification of birth date and legal presence (such as a green card or a US border crossing ID card and visa with valid I-94), your social security number, your full name and a $27 application fee. You must also pass a driving test.

The DMV rates your driving record on a point system and your licence may be revoked or suspended if you acquire four points within a 12 month period, six points in a 24 month period or eight points in a 36 month period (these points also affect your insurance rates). You earn one point for being at fault in an accident or receiving a minor moving violation, and two points for reckless driving, a hit-and-run accident, driving on a suspended or revoked licence, or driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol (DUI). Points usually remain on your record for three years, but there are exceptions and you can often erase one moving violation point a year by attending an approved California traffic school, onsite or via the internet.

Officers of the law cannot pull you over without cause, unless you encounter a sober driving checkpoint. If you are pulled over, you will need to provide your licence, as well as the vehicle’s registration document and proof of insurance.

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