The DMV, the famous and beautiful DMV…what can I say. I can just say that all of you at one stage, if you want to drive in California, have to go to the DMV. DMV stands for the Department of Motor Vehicles. This department is very popular, because everyone from overseas and every person from a different American State needs to get a Californian driver’s license. People from another American State only have to do the written test and the overseas people need to do the entire test, which includes the theory and practical test. This is sort of a wee bit of a nuisance but there is no way around that. On the up site your drivers license card will not only act as a drivers license but also as an ID. This comes in convenient especially when you want to purchase a bottle of wine in the supermarket. People at the till become very scared when they see a foreign ID, often they don’t know where to look for the birth date in order to check whether you are eligible (over 21 years old) to buy alcohol. So, stop kicking and fussing, it needs to be done.
The resource center at the Bechtel International Center has DMV handbooks available. Otherwise, just swing by the DMV to pick up your study copy. Some of the US rules are a bit different to the rules of the country you are coming from. It would be good to have a thorough read through. Especially, make sure you have the alcohol % down correctly, there will be sure enough a question on that. California is very specific about the alcohol % in the blood. If you have too much it is called driving under the influence (DUI). You will soon read this abbreviation every where – It took me quite a while to figure out what this means. If you are caught DUI and the highway police or any other police catches you, you have a big problem. Be especially careful when driving El Camino between Redwood City and Palo Alto. The police loves that road and they patrol it frequently especially after night fall.
The DMV You Tube Videos also help a great deal to understand traffic rules in California . The You Tube Videos are created by the DMV and they are well done and they explain exactly what is expected from you, especially when it comes to the practical test.
Ok, once you have studied the booklet just go to your closest DMV (check on their website), register and write the test. It is a multiple choice test with 36 questions and you can get 6 wrong before you fail. Once you successfully completed the written test you are allowed to do the practical test. In the mean time you get a little paper which temporarily allows you to drive in California. Make an appointment at the DMV for your practical test. The appointment can also be made online, but it was much easier to do it immediately at the DMV.
Once you have your practical driving test appointment you need a car. With the temporary license you can buy a car already. If you don’t want to buy a car right now, you can also do it in a friends car or in a hired car. When you do it in a hired car, just make sure that you get all the appropriate insurances and and letters from the car hire company. I can’t tell you all the details here, as they vary from DMV and hiring company. I am just alerting you to follow their instructions properly to avoid disappointment. I hired a car and thought all was good to go and as I pulled up to do the test they told me I had a document missing and I had to do the entire procedure again.
The actual driving test is not that bad. Make sure you familiarize yourself with all the lights of your car. The instructor will asked you where all these lights are. And learn how to do hand signals for stopping and indicating. All should be mentioned in the handbook. The instructors usually are very nice, just follow their instructions and drive like you used to drive for the last years. I mean it does feel sort of weird when after years of driving you suddenly have an instructor back in your car. I was certainly breaking a sweat. But, what can you do, just get in over and done with.
When you passed your test you get another piece of paper which allows you to drive in California. Your California ID – drivers license card should be send to you within 2 weeks. Sometimes that can take longer though. California is suffering under severe state depth and all the departments are cutting employees. Having this in mind, things can sometimes take a bit longer and also explains why employees are not always the most happiest people on earth.
Good luck and Happy driving in CA