“Ask George” Expert Answers to Common DMV Questions

September 07, 2011

By George Valverde - Director, California Department of Motor Vehicles

Do you have questions about general driving related requirements like registration and insurance? Are you unclear about laws and restrictions related to driving? The California Department of Motor Vehicles has answers. “Save Time by Going Online,” at www.dmv.ca.gov.    

Q: I am a single mother and my 17 year old son is planning on applying for a driver license.  My son’s father and I have joint custody, but I live in Sacramento (with my son) and his father live in Los Angeles.  Is it okay if I am the only one that signs my son’s driver license application, since he lives with me 85 percent of the time? 

A:  No.  No application for a driver license shall be granted by the department to any minor unless it is signed and verified by the father and mother, if both father and mother are living and have custody of the minor.  To learn more about signatures and verification for minor please go to http://www.dmv.ca.gov/pubs/vctop/d09/vc17701.htm  on the DMV Web site. Save time. Go online!

Q:  I recently received two renewal notices for a vehicle that I sold a year ago.  This has to be an error, right?

A:  Renewal notices are sent to the owner of record, so it is likely that the vehicle has not been transferred by the new owner.  You must file a Notice of Transfer and Release of Liability form (REG 138) with DMV immediately upon selling a vehicle, which is required by law.  Filing this document protects you from responsibility for any use of the vehicle as well as registration fees and parking violations associated with use after the transfer date.  The form can be filed online at dmv.ca.gov.  Save time. Go online!

If you have received a billing notice or other notices requesting payment of fees after submitting your Notice of Release of Liability, please contact DMV at 1-800-777-0133 for assistance. 

Q: I saw recently that practice written tests are available online at www.dmv.ca.gov. Can I take the real written test online, too? It would be a lot easier since I don’t have my license yet and I only live with my mom, who is usually at work when I have free time.          

A: Unfortunately, you can’t take the written exams online. All DMV written tests must be taken on-site at a DMV field office. The practice tests are available online for you to better prepare yourself for taking the actual written test. For faster service, schedule your written test appointment online and you won’t have to wait in any unnecessary lines when you arrive at your closest field office! Save time. Go online!

Q: I want to get a license to drive a motorcycle. I do not own a car and I don’t intend to drive one at any point, so do I need a regular California driver license in addition to my motorcycle license?         

A: No, you do not need a Class C California driver license (the one required to operate automobiles) in order to obtain a Class M1 or M2 motorcycle license. The process to obtaining a motorcycle license is a separate DMV process. However, if you do have a Class M1 or M2 license, you may ONLY operate any two-wheel motorcycle, motor-driven cycle, bicycle with an attached motor or motorized scooter. In the event that you do decide to operate an automobile, you can only do so legally with a valid Class C driver license.  For more information on obtaining M1, M2, Class C or other valid types of driver licenses and for a checklist of requirements for obtaining these, please visit http://www.dmv.ca.gov/dl/dl.htm. Save time. Go online!

Q: My license expires in three months. Am I responsible for replacing it, or does the DMV automatically send me a new license? I want a new picture so if the DMV automatically resends it to me, how can I alert them that I want to come in to get a new picture before I get a new license?

A: The DMV will not automatically send you a new driver license, but it will send you a renewal notice in the mail. It is your responsibility to renew your driver license either by mail, by going into a DMV field office or the best way to save time is by visiting www.dmv.ca.gov to renew online - However, if you’d like a new picture, you’ll have to go into a field office, where you can fill out your renewal application and get a new photograph taken. To reduce your wait time, schedule an appointment online at www.dmv.ca.gov. After you complete these requirements, you’ll be issued an interim license and will receive your new photo license within 60 days.

The DMV is a department under the Business, Transportation and Housing Agency, which is under the direction of Acting Undersecretary Traci Stevens. The DMV licenses drivers, maintains driving records, registers and tracks official ownership of vehicles and vessels, investigates auto and identity-related fraud, and licenses car dealers, driving schools, and traffic violator schools. For more information about the DMV, visit www.DMV.ca.gov.

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