Choosing a Driving School
By: Amitesh Verma | SADD National Student Leadership Council
Traffic crashes remain a leading cause of death for teens, often due to inexperience and immaturity with the task of driving. Choosing and attending a driving school is an important first step to getting you on the road to safety. Learning to drive is both an art and a science. You must understand the semantics about how the rubber meets the road, and also understand the culture of driving, as well as how to respond and maneuver in a myriad of situations.
There is a great deal of misunderstanding surrounding how to choose a driving school, why it matters, and what the key components are to look for in the course. As a teen, I can attest that the process is confusing without any prior knowledge, that’s why I’m thankful that SADD and The National Road Safety Foundation have teamed up to bring teens helpful insight with the #DrivingSkills101 Passport to Safe Driving Toolkit! This resource is a go-to guide with tips and resources for both teens and parents to help them make the best decision that suits their needs.
Whether or not driving school is required is dictated on the graduated driver licensing (GDL) laws in your state. These GDL laws often require a minimum number of hours set for both in the classroom and behind the wheel instruction. You can view your state GDL laws here to clarify what is expected in the process of learning to drive. Go to the Driving School Association of the Americas’ driving school index for more information on professional driving schools in your state. When choosing a driving school, teens and their parents should also seek driver education programs that meet or exceed the Novice Teen Driver Education and Training Administrative Standards. Attending a certified driving school that follows these standards is key when it comes to addressing the leading causes of teen crashes and gaps found in teens’ knowledge in the classroom.
Driving schools provide a hands-on learning opportunity that is instrumental in reducing teen crashes by allowing teens to get behind the wheel in a safe, controlled environment, as they develop the necessary skills of driving. Here are some key tips for teens:
- Talk with an adult about the different driving school options to pick the one that best fits your needs.
- Ask questions. If you don’t understand a specific skill you’re learning, ask the instructor to further explain.
- If you’re not comfortable with your instructor, speak with your parent or an adult to express your concerns.
- Take a deep breath and relax. This is a lifetime skill that you’re learning to master. If you’re tense, it’s hard to focus on the task at hand.
- Keep in mind that your driving instructor is on your side, providing patience, support, and encouragement as you get on the road to a lifetime of safe driving.
- Take the process of learning to drive seriously. Use this time to work on your skills and understand that what you learn in this course could save your life and make you a safer driver.
Parents play an important role in the process of choosing a driving school that meets the needs of their teen. Accreditation, quality, number of instructional hours, and success rates should be taken into account when making the decision. Here are some of the key questions and points of consideration to review:
Parents/Guardians of Teen Drivers:
- Price of the driving school should not be the only consideration.
- Visit your state driver education website to see what schools are approved/licensed.
- Look at the curriculum and skill focus of the driving schools you are considering.
- What forms of training are provided? Virtual, classroom, behind-the-wheel, or a combination?
- Compare the number of classroom and behind-the-wheel hours offered with each school. Remember, it is perfectly acceptable for a driving school to require more hours of driving practice than your state minimum. The more practice your teen can get, the better!
- Ask what type of training and certification are required for the instructors to teach your teen how to drive.
- If the driving school you choose offers a parent/guardian seminar, take advantage of the opportunity.
- Ask if the driving instructor will be giving progress reports and providing feedback for areas of improvement.
- Is the driving school a member of any state or national associations that strive for the betterment of driver education?
The driver education courses that I took were some of the most important experiences of my life. Though the process may have been lengthy, it is where I have learned one of the most vital skills in my life — the art of driving. There are different ways to attend a driving school, and I found an in-person experience to work out best for me. I was able to receive the information in a didactic, structured amount of time. However, for others who like to work independently over a “self-pace” style, an online experience may work out better. These are points to consider when deciding on what school is best for you.
One of my favorite aspects of driving school is the level of care and instruction teachers may give. As a nervous driver, the sessions I had behind the wheel opened my eyes to the world of driving. There were many instances where I felt fearful of my abilities; however, the instructors always have your back, using their own brake pedal if needed. My hands-on driving sessions allowed me to experience driving through a multitude of situations, whether it be straight, curved, quicker, or slower paths. In fact, in my last session, my instructor decided to take me on the highway, and I was terrified. However, with steady guidance and mentoring, I soon grew confident of my abilities, learning to maintain a steady speed, not slowing down when changing lanes, and being environmentally aware of my surroundings. As a current driver, I cherish the educational experiences I have had as they remain an instrumental component of my foundation. As you go through the process of choosing a driving school, consider the contents of this blog. There is a lot to learn when it comes to the art of driving, but with the right driving school, you will be a better and safer driver in the long run!