Arkansas Graduated Drivers License
By now, most of the states have developed and implemented some form of a graduated driver's license system and Arkansas is no exception to this rule. The Arkansas graduated drivers license program applies to drivers license applicants between 14 and 18 years of age and it features many of the restrictions and requirements that are used by other states. However, the Arkansas graduated driver license program does not have mandatory drivers education classes and has a very low minimum age for entering the program, a teenager can get a learners permit at the age of 14, which in most other states the minimum permit age ranges from 15 to 16. The Arkansas graduated license program also contains the “learners license” stage, which seems somewhat unnecessary and redundant, with no clear purpose. Overall, we could say that the Arkansas graduated drivers license program is due for a long-awaited update.
First of all, let's take a look at what the graduated driver license program really is and why do we even need one. Here is what the official Arkansas drivers manual tells us about the graduated license law.
“Any person between the ages of 14 and 18 who has not been issued an Arkansas Driver's License will be issued a drivers license under the Arkansas Graduated Licensing Law (Act 1694 of 2001). The law mandates a progressive driver's licensing program for young drivers. Drivers are required to adhere to the restrictions at each level before they can move on to the next level. For more information call 501-682-7059.”
This doesn't really tell us much, but we can elaborate on this. The graduated drivers license laws were developed in response to the rising number of accidents that involve teenage drivers. According to statistics, one in every five teenage drivers either receives a traffic ticket or is involved in a traffic accident during the first year of driving. In most reasons, lack of driving experience is to blame for this. Teenage drivers who just got licensed simply don't have the skills required for dealing with complex traffic situations, these skills come with experience and experience is exactly what these drivers lack.
You may postulate that if lack of driving experience is the issue, than drivers license applicants of all ages should be treated in the same manner and anyone who applies for an drivers license should have to go through the graduated drivers license program before receiving a drivers license. This would be an ideal situation and some states, such as Maryland, already made a move towards better education for drivers of all ages. However, there are certain factors that tell us that teenage drivers face additional risks behind the wheel. Older drivers who just got licensed usually recognize the fact that their driving skills are far from perfect and take precautions to compensate for this - they drive slower, they pay more attention to the road, they use seat belts because they know that seat belts may save their lives, should something happen. On the contrary, teenage drivers tend to overestimate their driving ability and fail to correctly predict the consequences of their actions. Teen drivers are likely to speed, take risks on the road and are less likely to use seat belts. The result of this - traffic accidents is a number one cause of death for people between 15 and 20 years of age.
The graduated drivers license laws and specifically the Arkansas graduated license laws were designed with these things in mind and they contain a number of restrictions that compensate the behavioral flaws of teenage drivers. The licensing procedure was designed in such way as to allow teenage drivers to acquire as much driving experience as possible in a safe driving environment before allowing unsupervised driving on public roads.
Arkansas Graduated License Stages
In order to minimize the risks faced by young drivers, the licensing procedure is divided into a number of separate steps. Each step of the graduated license process has its own restrictions and requirements and as the driver proceeds through these steps, additional driving privileges are awarded. If the driver commits an offense, he must stay at the current level for a longer period or his driving privileges are suspended. Basically, the system promotes responsible and safe driving and penalizes those who fail to observe the rules.
At the moment, the Arkansas graduated drivers license system has the following stages:
- Instruction permit (it may also be called a learners permit or drivers permit, they all mean the same thing
- Learners license
- Intermediate license
- Full drivers license
From the information provided by the Arkansas DFA, it is unclear what is the exact purpose of the learners license, since it has the same restrictions as a regular instruction permit. The only thing that could justify the existence of the learner's license is that it allows you to meet the requirement for holding an A restriction sooner. The A restriction mandates that every driver under the age of 18 must have an adult in the vehicle for the first six months after receiving a drivers license. However, this extra stage that is available only to applicants between 14 and 16 years of age who have held a learners permit for at least six months and it really confuses things for most drivers. This stage is not compulsory and if you can upgrade your learners permit straight to an intermediate drivers license, provided you are at least 16 years of age.
Please note: the Arkansas graduated drivers license law applies only to drivers under 18 years of age. If you are 18 years old or older, you can apply for a drivers license through a simplified procedure.
Arkansas Instruction Permit
Obtaining a learners permit is the first step you can take towards achieving a full drivers license. The minimum age for applying for a learners permit is 14 and the state requires you to take an Arkansas permit test that covers the driving rules and safe driving practices before you can be issued with a drivers permit. If you want to prepare for the real permit test, you can choose to take an Arkansas drivers permit practice test that uses similar wording and covers the same topics as the real exam.
School attendance and good academic performance are a key factor when it comes to applying for a learners permit. According to the Arkansas graduated license law, you are required to present a school attendance form and a grade average form before you can take a learners permit test and get your Arkansas instruction permit.
Once you get your learners permit, you can get behind the wheel and start practicing for a drivers license test. You must hold your learners permit for at least six months before you can take a drivers test and during this time, you must observe the following Arkansas learners permit restrictions:
- No driving alone. At this stage, you are not allowed to drive alone and you must have a supervising driver accompany you at all times. The supervising driver must be at least 21 years of age, hold a valid drivers license and be either your parent/legal guardian or a person authorized by your parent.
- No cell phones. The cell phone restriction mandates that drivers under the age of 18 must not use a cell phone or any other electronic communication device while driving. This includes both the hand-held and hands-free devices.
- Seat belts. Everyone present in the vehicle operated by a permit holder must wear a seat belt.
The learners permit must be held for at least six months before you can apply for a drivers license. If you take an Arkansas drivers test before the age of 16, you are issued with a learners license. If the drivers license test is taken by permit holders between 16 and 18 years of age, an intermediate drivers license is issued.
Arkansas Learners License
Obtaining a learners license is the second steps of the Arkansas graduated license process and to be honest, the most confusing one. This option is only available if you are 14 to 16 years of age, have held your learners permit for at least six months and have passed both the learners permit test and the driving test. The learners license comes with the same restrictions as the instruction permit, it allows you to drive only if you are accompanied by a licensed driver at least 21 years of age and you cannot exchange it for an intermediate drivers license until you are at least 16 years of age.
The only thing this learners license is good for is for meeting the requirement for holding an A restriction for six months sooner.
Arkansas Intermediate Drivers License
An intermediate drivers license is the first drivers license that allows you to get out and start driving alone. In order to be eligible for an intermediate drivers license, you must be at least 16 years of age and have held a learners permit for at least six months or have a learners license. You can drive without a supervising driver in the car, provided you observe the following restrictions:
- Curfew. You cannot drive between the hours of 11 p.m. and 4 a.m. unless you are driving to or from a school activity, church-related activity, an employment activity or in case of an emergency.
- Passenger restrictions. No more than one passenger under the age of 18 is allowed to be present in the vehicle.
- Cell phones. The usage of cell phones is prohibited during this stage.
- Seat belts. Everyone in the vehicle must wear a seat belt.
These restrictions can be disregarded if you have a supervising driver at least 21 years of age present in the front seat next to the driver.
In addition to the above restriction, the graduated license law requires you to have the A restrictions on your intermediate license for the first six months of driving, unless you have already met this requirement during your learners license stage.
The intermediate license restrictions can be lifted no earlier than the driver's 18th birthday, when the driver is eligible for a full unrestricted Arkansas drivers license.
Safe Driving Habits
The whole point of the Arkansas graduated drivers license program is to help teenagers develop safe driving habits and there are certain penalties for not observing the traffic regulations. If you receive a traffic ticket or are involved in a traffic accident during the learners permit or intermediate license stage, the holding period is restarted. In case of the learners permit, the holding period is extended by another six months. For an intermediate license, the holding period is extended by another 12 months.
Restriction A - Adult In The Car
According to the current Arkansas graduated license law, your first drivers license will be marked with the restrictions A. This restriction means that you must have an adult present in the vehicle whenever you are driving. The restriction must be held for at least six months and you can fulfill this requirement either during the learners license stage or the intermediate drivers license stage.
In our opinion, the Arkansas graduated driver's license program is due for a review and an update. The minimum age for obtaining a learners permit should be raised to at least 15 years of age, the learners license stage can be obliterated and drivers education classes could be made mandatory. These simple measures could start saving lives today.