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New driver’s license laws in effect soon

Some upcoming changes in Mississippi law concerning driver’slicenses are causing a little bit of confusion among drivershere.

“A lot of people are calling about the new law, and some parentsare trying to rush their kids in here to get their hardship licensebefore July 1, when the law goes into effect, but they don’t haveto,” said Chris King, a driver’s license examiner.

One of the changes concerns 15-year-olds, who previously havebeen allowed to get hardship licenses if they needed to drive inorder to add to the family income.

As of July 1, 15-year-olds can be issued temporary permits,whether they have a hardship or not. Hardship licenses issuedbefore July 1 will still be honored, though, explained King.

“That’s the main confusion among people,” said King. “They’reafraid the hardship licenses won’t apply after July 1.”

Drivers holding temporary permits can drive only while beingsupervised by a licensed driver who is at least 21 years old.

The amendments to the driver’s license laws were decided uponduring the recent legislative session.

Other amendments include allowing 15-year-old drivers who haveheld a temporary permit for at least six months to obtain anintermediate license if they have not received any trafficviolations. Any type of violation will send drivers back to stepone.

“If they get a speeding ticket while they have a permit, thatstarts the process over,” said Donna Dampier, a driver’s licenseexaminer.

The intermediate license will give drivers the privilege to beunsupervised on the road from 6 a.m. until 10 p.m. During othertimes, a licensed adult must be in the seat beside the driver.

Once drivers have held an intermediate license for at least sixmonths, they may apply for a driver’s license.

All drivers under the age of 18 must renew their driver’slicense once a year. During the renewal process and any timedrivers under 18 apply for a license, they must present a specialform.

“The state legislature passed a law that anyone under 18 musthave a school attendance form with them when they apply,” saidKing.

The attendance form requirement was an effort by lawmakers twoyears ago to encourage the importance of education.

After a driver turns 18 years old, they are eligible for afour-year license, which gives them full driving privileges.

Another big change that will go into effect July 1 is theappearance of driver’s licenses issued to minors.

“It will be turned upright instead of sideways so the officerswill know immediately that they’re minors,” said Dampier, addingthat the change will also be beneficial to store clerks.

No matter the driver’s age, some basic requirements remain thesame this year.

Each applicant must provide proof of residence and pass an eyeexam, written exam and road test in order to obtain a driver’slicense.

Area residents can apply for licenses weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5p.m. inside the Mississippi Highway Patrol substation on Highway51.

Examiners say even if the laws vary, getting a license stillcomes down to basic skills. The most important rules of driving areto use caution at all times and know the rules of the road.

Jaton Pinkney, 17, of Brookhaven, obtained her driver’s licenseTuesday, and she believes knowing the rules in the driver’s manualis a vital part of being an efficient driver.

Pinkney said the test was not as bad as she expected, becauseshe studied the manual so diligently. Pinkney also credited herfather for helping her gain driving privileges.

“He taught me how to drive,” she said. “First, we started out onthe roads in the country, and we worked our way into town once Igot more experienced.”

After she passed the eye exam and written test, a driver’slicense examiner put her experience to the test by riding in thevehicle with her and observing how she reacted in certainsituations.

Brookhaven, according to local examiners, provides an idealtesting area for drivers because it allows for so manysituations.

“You try to get a mixture into the road test, and we’re luckyhere in Brookhaven because we can get drivers out on the mainhighway and in town,” he said. “There’s plenty of traffic lightsand stop signs.”

After a driver successfully makes the short drive around town,they can obtain a license almost immediately. The local driver’slicense station has a special machine, which is a rare commodity,that prints licenses within a few minutes, said King.

Although the amendments to the law are approaching quickly,examiners say not much else about obtaining a driver’s license willchange.