Thursday, August 5

Posted by Laurel Garver on Thursday, August 05, 2010 15 comments
High school kids don't drive in New York City. It's illegal. This has sent me on a big research dig for my book in progress, because my characters won't be IN the city for this particular summer. One will be working as a camp counselor, and the other staying with a grandparent. In rural Pennsylvania. Where there aren't subways and buses and taxis everywhere.

In order for the nearly-18-year-old to be driving, I'd need him to have already gone through the whole learner's permit and driver's ed hoops in Pennsylvania. How sketchy would it be for him to have done this the previous summer, using his family's vacation home as his Pennsylvania address?

Can my 17-year-old get a learner's permit using her grandfather's address? I think it might be pretty fun to make her take driving lessons with the crotchety old guy and be stuck schlepping him around all summer.

Do I have a legal leg to stand on, using part-time residency to help my fictional kids get wheels?

Who taught you to drive? How old were you?
~image from Colorado Association of School Resource Officers~
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  1. I totally think that's plausible.

    But don't you hate when little glitches like this happen? Sometimes they're not as easy to work out.

    Happy Thursday!

  2. Seems plausible to me, too. If I've learned anything from my husband's job in a college financial aid setting, it's that people use "fake" addresses for establishing residency all the time.

    I got my learner's at 15, took driver's ed in a 2-week course at my school. Both my parents took me out, but their styles were vastly different--I preferred driving with my mom. My older brother also helped. Even though I had my learner's, I didn't get my driver's license until 4 months before I turned 17.

  3. I don't know. Our system is different in Canada. Kids now get the first level license at 16 - 2 more steps before completely qualified. Sorry I can't help.

  4. I can't drive yet... getting permit in future....
    I don't really know much about that but if you didn't specifically say it was illegal in New York I don't think that many people would know, and if they did it seems like that would be a good enough story...

  5. I think it could work. Kids use different addresses all the time to beat the system. Growing up I went to a school with a guy who claimed to live with his grandparents so he could go to our school and not the other district...

    My parents made me get my license my jr. year of high school. It was in the spring when I finally got it (I was turning 18 that summer). I didn't want to drive and didn't really have the need to b/c all of my friends drove. However, my Mom was sick and tired of driving me to all my music rehearsals that I had every night, so they put their foot down. I still hate to drive.

  6. Totally different in Australia. We are much stricter now than we used to be. Good luck with your research..:)

  7. I learned to drive when I was 16 1/2 - taught by my high school's driver's ed program and my Dad. As a NJ resident (many years ago:) I was able to get my license when I turned 17.

    I knew some kids who'd use a PA relative's address so that they could get their license when they turned 16. But like I said, this was many years ago and I think the laws have changed.

    Have a great weekend,

  8. Lola: Plausible versus ethical--that's the underlying dilemma for me. What does it say about my characters to do this? Hmm...

    Summer--My big brother taught me, too. He was a really patient teacher. And I'm even more tangled about the ethics of this from your comment. The guy with a vacation home in PA doesn't seem as "fake" as the girl using a grandparent's address. But maybe I can make it clear the adults forced this on her and she's not entirely comfortable with the legality and ethics of their convenient solution.

  9. Jemi: New York City has a complex tiered system, too. In PA, you start with a learner's permit at 16, then can take the test for a junior license (no late-night driving) after logging 50 hours of practice with an over-21 adult in the car.

    Swimmer: NYC doesn't allow drivers under 18 to drive in the city limits. I get the sense city kids usually couldn't be bothered anyway.

    You have to remember that most agents and publishers are in NYC and would immediately flag the inconsistency if I had NYC residents driving younger without some explanation.

    Kelly: for sure, but what if the ethical implications bothered them?

    Funny about being forced to drive. I was, too, for the same reason.

    L'Aussie: from time to time, I hear rumblings about lowering the drinking age and raising the driving age here in the states.

    Karen: I think the laws are the same still--you can get licensed younger in PA than in NJ. I know plently of Philly residents who use fake NJ addresses to get cheaper car insurance. My gut says fake addresses is ethically sketchy and if I use it in my plot, I should treat it as such. I don't want to come across as a proponent of fraud.

  10. It's so long ago that I learned to drive, that people were mainly driving stick shifts. Scary, I know. And almost impossible! :)

  11. I wish I could help with your questions. My kids aren't old enough yet (though my daughter is close at 14). I learned to drive in Michigan, where we took driver's ed in the summer through our high school (no charge). Once our instructor (who was one of our high school teachers) passed us on the driving part, we took the written test at the Licensing Bureau but didn't have an actual driving test. Once we had our instructor's okay and passed the written test, we got our permit.

  12. This kind of glitch really gets me, especially since I write a lot of stories based in a country I live in, but of which I know relatively little.

    Hope you get to figure this out soon.

  13. Susan: Ooh, stick shift! Impressive. I've never learned myself. It is interesting manual transmissions have fallen out of favor. They get better gas milage.

    Susan: Lucky dog. In PA you do a closed-course test with a cop to move from learner's permit to license. They assign the meanest cops for this task--I guess to scare the cockiness out of teenagers. I'm one of the few people who passed my test the first time. Though I did go to take the test a previous time but went home crying because the cop barked at me for not having all my paperwork in order. :-D

    Damyanti: Every story decision has the potential to introduce glitches like this. And sometimes creative work arounds introduce even more glitches! Thank goodness we have the Internet these days to help with research. I'm becoming an expert on the NY and PA motor vehicle department rules. :-)

  14. Sorry, can't help. I'm also a Canadian. Things are different here. :)

    I didn't know that about NY.

  15. Stina: It's just the five boroughs with the "no under 18s behind the wheel unless in a dual-controlled car with an instructor." There's a different system for upstate NY. Confusing! And every state has its own system--there's no federal umbrella law.