High-quality driver education and effective parent-supervised driving practice are key to preventing teen crashes, the number one cause of death for adolescents in the U.S. How to choose a driving school? With care and armed with knowledge.
Many states require that teen drivers complete specific driver education training courses and behind-the-wheel driving before getting an intermediate license. When choosing a driving school, make sure that the school’s curriculum matches or exceeds your state’s requirements.
The best driver education programs not only teach driving skills to teens, but also provide specific guidance to parents on how to practice those skills with their teens. Such schools promote deliberate interaction between their licensed certified driver education instructors (DEIs) and parents to ensure new skills are assessed at each stage and mastered before teens take the behind-the-wheel test.
Teens with special needs who want to drive will need a driving school that has professionals on staff with specific training. The Association for Driver Rehabilitation Specialists offers a directory to help families locate a qualified school in their area.
TIPS FOR HOW TO CHOOSE A DRIVING SCHOOL
- Visit the facility. Ask questions about what the program entails, details regarding on-road practice and conditions, the instructor’s credentials, the program’s accreditation status, and how much liability the school carries.
- Choose a school that explicitly involves parents and other adults involved in practice driving. Learning to drive takes hundreds, if not thousands, of hours to achieve an adequate level of mastery. The driving school should recognize this and explicitly include a partnership between the school (which provides the high-quality training) and the parents/adults (who provide the supervised practice, which reinforces this training). Two-way communication is important as well. The school should provide students and their families with areas in need of deliberate practice, while students and their families should inform the school about driving challenges and progress made.
- Look for a school that doesn’t rush the learning process. Although the classroom portion of the program is important, behind-the-wheel training is critical. Not all drivers are the same, and some will need extra practice in certain areas. Make sure the school will teach at your teen’s particular pace.
- Make sure the behind-the-wheel training is thorough. If a driving lesson is under one hour, it’s not enough. Lessons should be planned out ahead of time based on the teen driver’s experience to date. The instructor should choose routes that are appropriate for each teen and provide challenges in new driving environments.
- Steer clear of programs with emergency driving maneuvers training. Eliminate schools that include training in skid control or other emergency driving maneuvers. These programs have been found to increase crashes, particularly among novice teen drivers.
- Check to see if your school is in good standing. Visit the Better Business Bureau website to ensure the school has not received any disciplinary actions for violating licensing laws or rules.
- Contact your insurance company. If the driving class is being taken to receive a discount on insurance, be sure to check directly with your provider, rather than take the school’s word for it.
After choosing a driving school, be sure to still log plenty of parent-supervised practice driving hours. Use an evidence-based program, such as the TeenDrivingPlan Practice Guide created by the Teen Driver Safety Research team at CHOP, to make these practice hours more effective.