The California Driver’s Knowledge​ Test …

You can’t imagine yourself without a car, especially in southern California. Being in your vehicle, driving wherever you want is second nature. But one day you receive a letter from the DMV two months before your birthday to notify you it’s time to renew your driver’s license. The first thought that comes into your mind is … What? Already? I just took that test. No, you didn’t. You last took it five years ago. Acceptance settles in slowly. You know your fate is sealed, as the cliche goes. You know, if you want to keep driving, you have to take the test. I want to keep driving.



Loved my Arctic Blue VW bug with a sunroof. It’s long gone but appreciate Proboards for the image.


The first step? You need to go to the Department of Motor Vehicles to get the latest California Driver Handbook, which I do. When I arrive at the DMV, I enter through a set of double glass doors. Then, seeing another set of double glass doors straight ahead, I push on through them. I see lines and people and hop in the nearest line which happens to be the shortest. After I acclimate to the mob scene – it’s a Friday afternoon – I realize I’m standing in the Disabled or Appointment Only line. I step out of line rather sheepishly, feeling a bit like I’ve stolen a loaf of bread, and step into another, longer line.

In Friday DMV shock, I keep thinking, All I want is a manual. There’s gotta be a better way. At this rate, I’ll be here until Monday. I try to catch the eye of a Security Guard, but he’s involved answering questions for someone else. Finally, I wave and he steps on over. I ask about the manuals .”Oh, they’re out in the lobby,” he says and walks away to help another hapless soul.



Had a lot of fun with my canary yellow Datsun 240Z. Thank you to for the image


The lobby? Oh, hell. In my great haste, I’d entered the DMV through a set of double glass doors, my eyes immediately focusing on another set of double glass doors straight ahead. I’d looked neither left nor right. I discover the small lobby, and there, on a side wall in various racks, are all sorts of manuals and pamphlets. I grab my summer read and leave.

You and I both know this manual will be as exciting as watching paint dry or grass grow, but with a stiff upper lip, I begin to read. Whoa! A few pages into the read comes “a grabber.” Changes are afoot. To fly domestically or enter a federal facility or military base a REAL ID Driver License or ID card will be needed beginning October 1, 2020. Oh, boy.

I continue reading and studying the nuts and bolts of driving in California until I’m ready to ply my trade on some online Practice Tests. There are two sample tests of 10 questions each in the manual but I need the hard liquor option of 16 online tests of 36 multiple choice questions each. My self-testing begins to mixed reviews. I learn I have to read each word, no skimming, no anticipating, no over-confidence allowed. You need to read each damn word.



When the Miata first came on the market, there was high demand and not enough product. Dealers charged a bounty to get you one faster than going through months of waiting. (I paid the bounty.) Thanks to YouTube for the image.


All cynicism and aborted humor aside, these tests are invaluable. Nothing like repetition to enforce an idea. And every time your radar recognizes a question you haven’t seen before, your brain goes on red alert – something new here. I sing the praises of repetition, reinforcement, variations on a theme. All help to drive the information home. When the test is scored and, if you’ve made an error, the correct answer is posted with the rationale.

You know this studying process ends in a test. I go online to to schedule an appointment. You can have your choice of DMV location. Then with the click of a few more keys, you can select your date and time. When the big day arrives, you pay a renewal fee, take the written test, take a vision test, and have your thumbprint and photo taken. Ah, what fun. (I pray my picture will look somewhat human.) Depending on your age, you may be able to renew online.

The California Driver Handbook states driving is a privilege. Leaving the philosophical debate to others, driving is something I want to keep doing. I enjoy cars. (I shared a few.) I like to drive. I can’t imagine life without a car. So I’ll keep studying, renewing, and doing whatever is necessary to be licensed to drive legally in California. May the testing gods be forever kind.

About cmwriter

I'm a writer ... of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. I blog about writing, short stories, poetry, books, plays, and thoughts on life. Love reading and travel and being with friends!
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7 Responses to The California Driver’s Knowledge​ Test …

  1. Hi Carol. For most of us, life without a car would be rough. You can get away without one if you live in a city with good public transportation. Otherwise, not.

    Happy driving!

    Neil S.

  2. Judith Altschule-Lieber says:

    My father, at age 100, had to renew his license. He studied the manual like he was preparing for final exams. On the day of the test he got one wrong. He kept insisting he was right. At his insistence (he was very stubborn), I went through the manual and discovered there was nothing in it to contradict his claim. He felt vindicated. Then I went online and discovered the manual online was different and more in-depth, and it had one tiny item that proved his answer incorrect. He felt both vindicated and justifiably wronged because he didn’t have a computer. Thankfully he didn’t return to the DMV to complain.
    So in the end, he passed all three exams—eye, written and driving—and his license was renewed. He never drove after that, saying he just wanted to prove to himself, the world and the DMV that he could do it.
    He died at age 101 with a drivers license in his wallet and his pride intact.

    • cmwriter says:

      Love this anecdote. Your dad had alot of spirit. It would have been fun watching your dad surprise the DMV people interacting with him. I hope I can accomplish what he did!

  3. Chris Black says:

    Thanks for stopping by, happy motoring glad we don’t have such stringent conditions here or there would be an awful lot of shoe leather worn out.

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