The Land Transportation Office is about to radically overhaul the way our license works. It affects everything from applications and requirements for securing a driver’s license, to how offenses will be penalized. Believing that holding a driver’s license is a privilege and not a right, the agency hopes to make the requirements more stringent and step up penalties in order to weed out those who are unqualified or undeserving to drive.

Rest assured that these new requirements and rules have not been implemented yet, but they will be very soon. As such, here is a primer on all the major changes to securing one and renewing your current driver’s license.

Know the new license system: seminars and demerits image

Driver Enhancement Program Seminars

As we mentioned before, one of the most controversial new requirements is the completion of driver’s seminars, spanning from 15 hours for student permit applicants to as little as none for very well-behaved drivers.

New student permit, license applicants, and license renewal applicants must show proof that they have attended and completed the required number of hours from any LTO-accredited driving school before being allowed to apply for, or renew their license.

These new requirements are in line with President Duterte’s mandate to require driving seminars for all license holders in order to mitigate road accidents and improve driver discipline.

There is no prescribed price for these seminars yet. As we speak, the LTO is currently crafting a memorandum circular to cover the costing of these seminars and any penalties for overcharging. Rest assured, we will update you as soon as we receive it.

Student Permit

For student permit applications, each applicant must show proof of having attended a minimum of 15 hours of theoretical driving classroom seminars from LTO-accredited driving schools or the LTO itself.

Those applying for a student’s permit will have to endure 15 hours of theoretical driving seminars. Thankfully, these are divided into 3 sessions, each 5 hours longs.

This seminar covers everything a driver needs to know. It starts with information about the LTO covering the office's scope and responsibilities as well as its functions. It will discuss traffic signs, signals and pavement markings, rules on turning, parking, right of way, overtaking, and expressway rules. Naturally, it also covers the components and functions of a motor vehicle, routines for inspection and starting, applicable laws and driving procedures. Each of these 5-hour sessions will have a 30-minute examination at the end.

Driver’s License

For first time driver's license applicants, it’s a minimum of 8-hours of hands-on driving lessons from an LTO-accredited instructor from an LTO-accredited driving school or the LTO itself. Written and practical exams must be a part of this curriculum.

This 8-hour practical session will cover maneuvers like practical driving; starting and stopping; backing and turning; road crossing and light traffic; maneuvering; hanging; garage driving; parking; highway driving; heavy traffic; and night driving. As expected, this 8-hour instruction will end with a 30 minute examination.

License Renewal

The requirements change for the applicants for renewal. For the first renewal of a license with 5-year validity, it’s a minimum of 8 hours theoretical driving classroom seminars.

This seminar is called the Driving Enhancement Program (DEP) and covers the Land Transportation Code and laws; road and traffic rules; defensive driving; handling emergencies and breakdowns; duties and responsibilities of a driver; and a viewing of the LTO Road Safety Video. Of course, it will be concluded with a 30-minute exam.

Licenses with demerits

For license renewals after the first with 5-9 demerit points, it’s a minimum of 4-hours theoretical driving classroom seminars.

The DEP Intervention Seminar includes discussions on the Land Transportation Code and special laws; traffic rules and penalties; and a very special segment on values, road courtesy and discipline. We hope you were paying attention, as there is also a 30-minute examination after.

For license renewals after the first with 10 or more demerits, it’s a minimum of 8 hours theoretical driving classroom seminars.

It gets much worse for those with more demerits, ranging from 10 or more. For every 10 demerits points, an additional 4 hours of intervention program seminars have to be attended.

Even if you have less than 10 demerits, if you have committed the same violation at least three times, you will also be required to attend 4 hours of intervention program seminars.

Take note, these intervention seminars are on top of the already required theoretical driving seminars. Have 20 demerits on your license, and that’s 8 hours theoretical driving and 8 hours intervention.

Know the new license system: seminars and demerits image

Demerits

How do these demerits work? Anyone from a student permit holder to a valid license holder can be given a demerit depending on their offense. Each offense or violation falls under one of three categories: Minor Violations, Less Grave Violations, and Grave Violations. Each category carries their own number of demerits.

Demerit points shall be individually counted for every violation committed in a single apprehension. For example, if you were apprehended once but were found to have two violations, you will be given the demerit points for each violation.

Offenses

These are just examples of offenses and the demerit points they are assigned. For the full list, you can view the Implementing Rules and Regulations here

Light Violations (1 demerit point)

Texting while driving (1st offense), Driving a motorcycle with a child onboard, Failure to wear helmet, Failure to wear seatbelt, Illegal turn, Reckless driving (1st offense)

Less Grave Violations (2 demerit points)

Texting while driving (2nd offense), Reckless driving (2nd offense), Parking in an intersection, Parking within 4 meters of a fire hydrant, Failure to yield to an ambulance or emergency vehicle

Grave Violations (5 demerit points)

Texting while driving (3rd offense), Reckless driving (3rd offense), Driving under the influence (DUI), Colorum violation, Driving an unregistered vehicle, Driving without a license, Counterflowing

How they add up

Demerit points for every driver shall revert back to zero upon the renewal of his/her driver's license. However, the history of committed traffic violations from which previous demerit points were incurred shall be archived and shall form part of the driver's permanent records.

For example, you may have 5 demerit points on your license come renewal time. Once you have completed the necessary seminars (4 hours), the points will be removed. However, the violations (e.g. texting while driving 1st offense, color coding 1st offense) will remain and will be added up to any additional violations you may receive. Text while driving with your renewed license and it will be your 2nd offense.

Drivers of public utility vehicles (PUV) shall be meted double the number of demerit points for every traffic violation committed while operating a For Hire motor vehicle.

In addition, drivers will be prohibited from changing classifications (e.g. from Non-Pro to Pro, restriction 2 to 3, etc.) of their licenses upon receipt of demerit points. There is a 3 months restriction for 1-2 demerit points, 6 months for 3-4 demerit points, and 1 year for 5 or more demerit points.

Student driver permits will have their permit revoked after 5 demerit points and barred from applying for a new one for 1 year. Students whose driver’s permits have been revoked 3 times will no longer be allowed to apply.

Drivers without any violation or demerit within the five years’ validity of their driver’s license will be granted a 10-year driver’s license on their next renewal.

Yes, the 10-year driver's license is real, but as we said before, it has to be earned. Only deserving riders will receive this after attaining a spotless record. It can also easily be lost at the next renewal if demerits are accrued.