Driver's License

Parent Q&A

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  • My 16-yr old son is smart and creative, but has traditionally not done well with tests. He has anxiety and is currently in the process of seeking diagnosis for ADHD. He has now failed the DMV written test 6 times, and he is incredibly frustrated. Are there any tutors or other suggestions parents may have? He has studied repeatedly the DMV book, he took an online course, and has taken numerous practice tests. He does well on the practice tests but then continues to “panic” at the DMV and miss 1 or 2 too many questions to pass. His parents are supportive and encouraging. We do our best to not put pressure on him & stay positive. Seeking help here because he really wants to drive, but is now feeling worse about himself every time he fails and now has taken a long break from trying. 

    What a frustrating situation this must be for your son.

    My now 20-y-o daughter has struggled with anxiety since she was very small. Severe anxiety can exhibit symptoms that are often mistaken for ADHD. She also is smart (tests as gifted) and creative and underperforms on tests. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has helped her tremendously in managing her anxiety in general, although she originally started with CBT for a specific issue. She passed the written driving test the second time. When she wanted SAT tutoring, we found a CBT-informed tutor since she knew the material and what she really needed was strategies to address the performance issues related to anxiety. I would be surprised to find a CBT-informed driving instructor, but a therapist well-trained and experienced in CBT should be able to help. Bonus will be the skills your son would learn would be transferrable to other situations in his life, including the in-person driving test. I'd say give him a break from the driving test and get him into therapy. Many young people don't get their licenses until later (may son didn't get his until he was 21-y-o), so he won't be odd man out.

    My son had the same problem.  Probably overstudied. That process of not knowing if answers are wrong and test stops when you’ve reached incorrect maximum is a perfect pressure cooker.  He panicked and cried the first time he took and failed. We laugh now at one of his missed answers. Q: “When you’re tired and driving at night, you should”. His selection: “Roll up the windows and look straight ahead” All while another test taker was asking him for answers. He can request to look at failed exam and take pics.  What helped my son was taking the written exam online. We came across online option when the computer system was down during appointment at DMV field office (unsure if/when online test is an option). It was a lot less stressful, You can also request a paper test, or other accommodations (I think an audio of questions is one) which might reduce the anxiety. My son said the sample questions were different than the actual tests.  Past, complete tests are on the DMV site somewhere. Take a break, don’t study for awhile, to dissolve the anxiety that’s built up.  And laugh. The DMV parent guide for teen drivers is helpful for behind the wheel learning. FWIW, my son passed behind the wheel test first time, with only 3 errors.  My older daughter and I were waiting for him and couldn’t tell if he passed as the examiner debriefed him in car.  We asked the examiner if he passed as she was walking to her next car. She said she had to have him pull over and take a breath because he was so nervous, but did pass.  Saw a few others who didn’t pass.  I’m learning not to go into empathetic distress, and to support him in dealing with anxiety.  Best of luck!

    This may not apply to you, but I have a friend with a teen with a learning difference who could not pass the written test, so I looked up whether there are accommodations, and there are! I’m pretty sure I just googled DMV test accommodation to find them. You might have to provide documentation, but it includes accommodations like extra time, questions read aloud, etc. Best wishes! 

  • Hi all, 

    Not sure if anyone will have an answer to this, but I can't find it online so far, and the DMV is not answering phone calls. 

    My husband and I just moved to Berkeley. We are trying to get CA drivers licenses, and change our voter registration to CA. 

    All the DMV resources explain how to do this pre-COVID: go to a DMV and take a written test.  But DMV is appt only now, and everything I'm finding suggests they are not taking new appointments. 

    I feel like I must be missing something, but can't figure it out... so thought there might be other parents who have run into this. 

    I read that you have to get a CA license within 10 days, but maybe that will be extended due to the lack of DMV facilities? 

    Thanks so much for any thoughts / support!


    Hello Jess,

    You do not need an appointment for the DMV.  I have gone to the Claremont branch twice so far for my license renewal and for my son to take the permit test. Both occasions, they have staff outside to offer assistance as well.  The line can get long, but both times it did not take more that an hour.  As for voting, you should be able to register here:  I hope this helps. 

    Welcome to Berkeley!

    You walk in. All the information is super conflicting (phone message does not match website & portions of the website are different than others). It took being on the phone for over an hour and speaking with two different DMV representatives to figure this out.

    We recently went to the Claremont DMV in Oakland to get my kids drivers permit. To make it easier, we completed the forms and uploaded all the documentation to the DMV site and specified the Claremont branch. You still have to bring all of the originals with you!  Once you complete all the steps, you’re issued a confirmation number and given a page to print that says to wait in the express appointment line. So while you don’t have a set appointment, you do get to join and much shorter and faster moving line. We waited about an hour total for him to get to the service counter and then the process moved very quickly because there really aren’t lines inside. 

    Jess, I have the same problem!

    I recently moved here from NYC and my license expired back in May. However, due to Covid the DMV was closed so I couldn't go in to get a CA license before it expired. The website offered outdated pre-Covid advice. I was able to call them back in May and they told me that at the time I didn't have options b/c as you noted, they weren't allowing new appointments and when they did open back up they would need to focus on rescheduling all the appointments for curing Covid that had be be cancelled. The lady told me to not worry about driving with an expired license and that if I were pulled over, they should be lenient and aware that extensions were given due to the pandemic. However I'm not sure if that extension has now run out?

    I also couldn't renew my NY license (the other thing she told me to try) because in order to do so online I had to provide a NY address for them to mail my new license to. Ultimately though, she didn't know how to advise me to resolve this issue which was really frustrating.  

    My brother who lives in SF told me he was able to recently go to the DMV, (they are taking walk-ins) so I'm thinking I'm going to have to just go in and explain my situation as I haven't been able to find a contact phone number to call them again (they seem to not want people calling them, given they have no phone #s clearly listed on the website). 

    I would also love to know if anyone has ideas / advice on this, thanks! 


    Yes!! My wife and I are having the same problem. We both just moved from NYS, and (worse yet) her license is now expired. We've had no luck getting info on how to to get a CA license. If you get any good leads please let us know.

    DMV has not appointments, but the offices are open, and you can get your business done without an appointment.  You just have to go in person and wait on line.  They are enforcing social distancing, and so the offices have limited capacity so the wait can be long, especially first thing in the morning.  Later in the afternoon is a better bet.  But be forewarned:  They close at least a half hour earlier than the 5:00 closing time posted on the website and the offices, and may shut you out even earlier if you need to take the written test.  The website tells you the wait time at various offices, but I have my doubts about the accuracy.  

  • Hello Wise Community,

    My 17-year-old daughter got her driver's license a little over 3 months ago. Legally, she cannot transport anyone under 20 until she turns 18 in September. She is a good kid and generally follows rules. However, she's pushing hard against this one, telling me that I am the only parent who expects her to follow this law. Her friend's parents allow them to transport friends if they clear who/when/where in advance. She is particularly pushing to drive a teammate on her school lacrosse team to a game for which a team bus is not available. In addition to the state law, the school has a rule that students are not to drive each other to school events regardless of age. 

    While I appreciate she (reluctantly and with hesitation) asked me about this, my instinct is to hold firm to both the school rule and the state law. Am I an outlier here?

    Stay firm. It is not worth the penalties from the DMV and from your insurance carrier if anything were to go bad. You are not the only parent who follows the law.

    Pretty sure your insurance would be void if she got in an accident. No way is it worth it. We have an almost 17-year old who will be getting his license soon and we will absolutely abide by this law.

    You are not the only one -- we enforced the one-year rule for our son, too. Got the same complaints from him. Still held firm. It's so important for them to have that time to learn and be comfortable with driving before adding other young people to the mix.

    Like another respondent, I concur that holding firm is the only way to go on this issue. It's essentially another version of, "Come on! All the other kids are doing it..."

    Using both validation and firmness worked for us two years ago when our daughter was in the same training phase. We said, " We get that it's frustrating. It sucks that you have this newfound way to be helpful to others--but you're not permitted too. And we just can't take that risk: the liability for us is too great. Your ability to understand this and to follow the state guidelines and our own is what will give us confidence that you're ready for the privilege of using our car." If she continues to push, you could try a version of: "When you continue to push after hearing our firm "No," it makes us wonder if you're really ready to use our car. We'd hate to have to limit or revoke this privilege, but we would do that if we suspect that you're not abiding by our rules and the state law." I mean, you can add some loving words before, in-between and after, but that's the basic message--or at least it was for us. How much our kids actually sneak around this rule is another matter. 
    You might also want to check with your insurance company to see if they have anything in small print about your coverage being compromised if a minor driver violates CA state requirements and is involved in an accident. (On a related matter, many people don't know that their home owner's liability may not cover them if they hire workers who come onto their property that don't carry their own liability insurance--that's in the fine print--spread the word that people should contact their own insurers. We continued to hire workers through our gardener, but hired bonded professionals to get up on ladders or anything that involved a higher degree of risk than weeding.)  Good luck with your teenager! - Sarah

    Stay strong -- I had the same situation, though now, there is no need to drive anyone anywhere.  We talked about getting pulled over by police and insurance rates and said just tell your friends "sorry"

    You are not the only person following this rule. The only exception we allowed was a carpool to and from school. And the only reason we allowed that was because there was a parent working at home on the after school end of the carpool so we knew that they didn't take any detours on the way home. Stand firm and follow the law. 

    You're not the only parent following the state law.  <rollingeyeemoji> If I had a dollar for every time my kids complained similarly .....  

    The downside is way bigger than any upside.


    She can lose her license if caught.  Maybe THAT will persuade her. 

    I agree with all the other parents I would totally stand firm. I did not allow my son to drive with folks illegally and I wouldn’t allow him to drive anyone either. You know insurance companies, they could refuse to cover it if she was in an accident. They could also refuse to ensure her period after that. Plus I hate to tell you this but teenagers get in accidents all the time because they’re new drivers. She does need to drive and get experience but you don’t wanna risk her friends getting injured. Of course she claims all of her friends parents allow it - because that’s always what teenagers say! I’m sure there are other parents that are standing firm as well. Besides, you will have many of these discussions in the future and it really is OK to set a boundary.

    Stay firm.  My son doesn't drive but only can get rides with friends who have been driving a year.  Period.  No exceptions.

    There's a reason for that law.

    She shouldn't be starting her adult life by breaking the law, either, actually!

    Obviously a safety issue but another consideration: how you respond shows how you regard following the law. I think it is important to model that it is important to obey the law, not just when it is convenient. 

    This law is very hard for parents to enforce, because the kids will just stop asking/telling you when they have people in the car. The best deterrent is when all the parents of the friend group agree that their kids absolutely cannot ride with one another until it’s legal. That said, I know my son and his friends were taking each other out for lunch or going out after school when parents were not aware. The silver lining was that he told me that when he had kids in the car he drove extra cautiously- well below the speed limit, signaling, full stops, etc. because he didn’t want to get pulled over. This is a kid who got two tickets in one year while driving alone, so... Anyway, it will be an annoying year, but it goes fast. Try to get the other parents on board. Good luck!