New teen-driving law begins

By Ed Brock

Set to get her driver's license in October, 15-year-old Lauren May of Jonesboro is none too fond of a new law that requires her to be enrolled in school in order to get that license.

"I think it's stupid," she said.

As part of Gov. Sonny Perdue's education package, the new law took effect on July 1, said Susan Sports, spokeswoman for the Georgia Department of Motor Vehicle Safety. It requires teens under 18 who are getting new licenses to provide a certificate of attendance in school or a state approved home school program, proof of graduation from high school, a GED diploma or proof of enrollment in post secondary school at the time the apply for the license.

But teens need their driver's licenses to get to work.

"Some kids can't go to school. Some just don't want to," May said.

Her 17-year-old brother Stephen May already has his license and on Thursday he was chauffeuring his sister and a 14-year-old friend Abbe Ellis of Stockbridge to Southlake Mall in Morrow.

Under the new law Stephen May could have his license suspended for a year, or until he turns 18, if he drops out of school for 10 consecutive days or is suspended from school for one of several reasons. May said he doesn't mind the new law.

"It will definitely make people stay in school," May said.

And Ellis said she doesn't care about the new law.

"I plan to stay in school," Ellis said.

Perdue introduced the legislation behind the law, Georgia House Bill 1190, during the last legislative session as a result of a town hall meeting he held last year with educators, said the governor's Press Secretary Loretta Lepore.

"The overriding concern they had was discipline," Lepore said. "The intent of (the new law) is twofold. It provides teachers with a tool to control the behavior of their students in the classroom and it helps cut down on truancy."

Previously, state law allowed teens to keep their license if they left school with their parents' permission, according to Sports. Also, the new law does away with a provision to reinstate a license to a teen who was suspended from but had returned to school. Teens who are suspended for violent offenses, drug-related offenses or sexual offenses are subject to having their license suspended.

A suspended student can apply for a "hardship permit" within 10 days of the suspension. The DMVS will consider each circumstance on a case-by-case basis and will make a decision within 30 days, Sports said.

Students enrolled in a home school program should contact the board of education to have their attendance validated. Only a DMVS Certificate of Attendance will be accepted, and a copy of the certificate form DS-1 is available at www.dmvs.ga.gov.

The DMVS customer service telephone number is (678) 413-8400. Teens are required to schedule an appoint several months in advance for an on-the-road test. To make a reservation call (678) 413-8500 and select Option 3 or call (866) 754-3687 if calling from outside Atlanta.