Tips for Choosing a Teen Driving School

Driver's education and driver's training prepare your teen to get behind the wheel safely

Getting a driver's license. For teens, it's a major milestone. For parents, the thought of a teen driver may bring a mix of relief and trepidation as they balance the advantages of having another chauffeur in the family with concerns their teen will stay safe on the roadways. If you have a teen who will soon be driving, check out these tips for choosing a teen driving school. First, some background.

What is Driver's Education and Driver's Training?

Typically, driver's education refers to the classroom, home study or web-based training program that prepares a student to get behind the wheel. Driver's education commonly educates teens on a state's rules of the road, explains how to operate a vehicle, describes what to do in an emergency and showcases some of the risks and dangers of driving.

By contrast, driver's training refers to the time students must spend actually driving with an instructor; there is generally a required number of hours students must spend behind the wheel before they can take a driver's license test. In fact, it is sometimes referred to as behind-the-wheel training. Generally, driver's training is conducted with a licensed instructor riding in a customized vehicle with dual controls, including a second footbrake and rearview mirror.

Teen Driving Program Requirements

The amount of time required for driver's education and driver's training varies significantly by state. For example:

  • In California, a teen is required to complete 25 hours of classroom instruction, 6 hours of behind-the-wheel training and 50 hours of supervised driving practice that includes 10 hours of driving during darkness.
  • In Georgia, a teen is required to complete 30 hours of classroom time (virtual or face-to-face), 6 hours of behind-the-wheel training and 40 hours of supervised driving.

Consult with your Department of Motor Vehicles for information on your state's requirements.

Finding a Teen Driving School for Your Teen

When choosing a teen driving school, verify that the school is registered and its license is current. Then, ask questions that give you a clear understanding of how instructors are assigned, the material that will be covered and how behind-the-wheel driving lessons are managed. Use these tips to get started:

  • Find an instructor you trust.

    Ask other parents and teens about the driving schools they used, their experiences and recommendations. Meet with instructors at recommended schools to talk about the approach he or she will take with your teen. Learn as much as you can about the instructor's background and training and whether he or she has completed any specialty classes or certification.

    Discuss whether the lessons are always taught at the same pace or if they will be provided at your child's pace. Opt for a teen driving school that customizes its pace to your teen's learning. Ask the teen driving school manager how instructors are assigned and whether you can change instructors if your teen does not respond well to the one who is assigned.

  • Verify the curriculum aligns with information that will be on the driver's test.

    Confirm the lessons provided adequately prepare your teen to take a driver's test. To assess this, compare the material the teen driving school covers with your state's requirements. Your teen should learn everything from basic car mechanics to what to do in an emergency, national statistics on driving risks, tips for reading maps, car insurance and your state's rules of the road. Your local Department of Motor Vehicles may provide a checklist or guidelines explaining how to prepare for a driver's test.

  • Maximize on-the-road driving time.

    Talk with the teen driving school about how they approach behind-the-wheel driving time. Some states require driving time to be spread out over multiple days, which gives teens multiple opportunities to build on the skills they are developing. Ask whether the instructor is willing to communicate with you and share ideas that you can use to reinforce between behind-the-wheel lessons.

Supervised Driving Practice

Of course, the final requirement in helping prepare your teen for the driver's test is supervised driving practice. As a parent, you'll want to reinforce what your teen has learned in driving school to help him or her retain the information and to emphasize safe driving habits. Your state's Department of Motor Vehicles may publish a checklist of topics to help you prepare your teen for the driver's test. If you find your teen struggling to develop a skill, check with the teen driving school to see if an instructor might be willing to help your teen brush up on the skill or provide advanced training.

When you choose the right teen driving school, your teen will get behind the wheel knowing what is safe and what is not. And, that will help him or her build both the skills and confidence needed to successfully pass a driver's test.