Changes in store for new drivers who want licenses

Friday, July 27, 2012 - 9:04am

If you're a new driver looking at getting your license for the first time, there are some big changes you need to know. Beginning August 1st, the minimum classroom requirements and practical experience are expanding. That means everyone who takes the licensing exam in Louisiana will need to spend at least 6 hours in the classroom and 8 hours behind the wheel with a driving instructor. Those requirements go up for drivers younger than 18.

At First Class Driving School in Shreveport, this weekend's classes are booked solid as adults rush to put in their required classroom hours before the change goes into effect. Bud Chauncy, who also serves as President of the Driving School Association of Louisiana, says that although the law was passed in the last legislative session, most drivers just learned it was going into effect next week. "Our phones have been ringing off the hook with people who are wanting to sign up for classes," he said.

Proponents say the new law will encourage safety on the roads and cut down on fatal crashes, especially among teens and inexperienced drivers. There's a catch, though. Individual drivers are responsible for paying for the courses themselves. The basic requirements, which are classroom sessions, cost about $50 at First Class Driving School. However, the practical 8-hour course (which includes the 30 hours of classroom experience) is more expensive, because of insurance and instructor costs, a total of $499 at the Bossier location.

Chauncy says the best way to be sure you're getting the most bang for your buck-is to ask good questions from the instructors. "What training do they have besides the minimum state requirements? What does that include? Parents, ask those questions when you call," he said.

The new state requirements do not apply to anyone who already has a valid license from Louisiana or another state.

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