2006_07_asknysdl.jpgDoes anybody know what the legal age is to drive in New York State? Is it 17 or 18?

Well, it depends on the situation. The minimum driving age in New York State (NYS) is 16, with a NYS learner permit. However, for drivers under the age of 18, the driving regulations get a bit sticky, and restrictions vary depending on where you live in NYS and the time of day you want to drive - and making sure you have a licensed driver in the car with you at times. People under 18 are not allowed to drive in New York City unless they are 17 AND have passed a NYS Education Department approved driver education course. This includes drivers who hold licenses from other states. Out-of-state drivers are expected to follow the restrictions of both your home state and the NYS restrictions. For those of you, like Gothamist, who are already totally confused, the DMV provides a chart here with the specific restrictions for each type of license. (Perhaps at this point the subway is sounding better and better?)

To drive restriction-free, you will need to be 18 with a valid NYS driver license, or 17 if you have completed a NYS Education Department approved driver education course.

The process for getting a NYS drivers license involves several steps:

1. Apply for a learner permit, pay application fee and driver license fee
2. Pass the vision test and the written test. However, if you have form MV-285 (Driver Education Student Certificate of Completion) you will not be required to take the written test.
3. Take a driver education course or a DMV-approved pre-licensing course.
4. Using your driver education certificate or pre-licensing course certificate, make an appointment for your road test
5. Pass your road test and receive your NYS driver license.

Those under 18 will be issued a Class DJ junior license after completing these steps. If you have completed a high school or college driver education course, you can change your Class DJ junior license to a Class D senior license when you are 17 years old. If you do not complete an approved program, your license will automatically be changed to a Class D license on your 18th birthday.

If you become a resident of NYS, you must get a NYS driver license within 30 days and surrender your out-of-state driver license. (Section 250 (5) of the Vehicle and Traffic Law defines the term "resident." The law defines a resident as a person who lives in NYS with the intent to make NYS a "fixed and permanent" place to live. To live in a house, a home, an apartment, a room or other similar place in NYS for 90 days is considered "presumptive evidence" that you are a resident of NYS. A police officer can use this evidence as the reason to issue a traffic ticket if you drive in NYS without a driver license or vehicle registration issued by NYS.)

In order to exchange an out-of-state license, as long as it has not expired for more than 6 months, this is what you will need:

1. Completed Form MV-44
2. A valid Eye Test Report (or you can take a vision test at the DMV office)
3. Two points of identification and proof of date of birth
4. Your out-of-state license license
5. Social security card
6. Money to pay a fee

Oh, and you will get to wait in a really long line to do all this, so make sure you have lots of time. And remember, no turns on red in NYC!

Here is a list of the NYS DMV offices.