What is driver’s education and when should my child take it?


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UPDATED: 2021-03-30T18:34:16.258Z
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A teen driver taking a driver's education course in a driving school car with a sticker on it that says "student driver."

Whether you’re apprehensive about having your teen start driving or are looking forward to your chauffeuring days coming to an end (or both), one thing is unavoidable. Your teen is going to have to learn the rules of the road and practice in order to successfully pass a driver’s test.

Some states require teens to complete a driver’s education course before taking the test to get a license, while other states only recommend it. If you’re wondering about what driver’s education is and when your teen should consider taking it, read on.

What is driver’s education?

Driver’s education classes (also called driving school) are formalized instruction taught by a licensed driver education instructor. In addition to having nerves of steel, a trained instructor knows the rules of the road and is accustomed to working with teen and novice drivers. A driver’s ed instructor will also have a solid understanding of what is typically covered in your state’s driver’s licensing exam.

The benefits of driving school

Since there is almost always a cost involved in formal driver’s education courses, if driver’s education isn’t mandatory in your state, you might wonder if it’s worth paying the additional fee.

Unless you are a superb driver with no bad habits and a spotless driving record, the answer is probably yes, it’s worth it.

Having an impartial instructor working with your teen as they learn how to drive is a good idea for a number of reasons:

You don’t want to pass on bad habits and incorrect information.

Whether you realize it or not, you’ve probably developed some lax driving habits over the years. Some examples of good habits that drivers tend to get sloppy with include, checking blind spots by turning the head, consistent use of turn signals, and using hand-over-hand steering techniques when appropriate.

Passing those bad habits on to your teen could result in them failing their driving test. There’s also the fact that laws vary from state to state and can be complex. A driver’s education instructor will be up-to-date on laws that you might not be.

Knowledge of current testing requirements.

A licensed driver’s education instructor is going to know what is covered on the test in your state, which may change over time. For example, did you know that a number of states have dropped the requirement that a driver must be able to demonstrate proficiency in parallel parking?

Unless you’ve recently taken the driver’s licensing exam in your state, it’s possible that you’d be working with outdated information on what’s on the test.

Preserving your relationship with your teen.

Learning how to drive can be overwhelming. There’s a lot for your teen to take in: all of the controls of the car, the meaning of dozens of different traffic signs and road markings, the presence of other drivers and cars on the road, and keeping traffic laws in mind all while not hitting anything or getting hit yourself.

Also, from your spot in the passenger’s seat, your teen’s inexperience and uncertainty might jangle your nerves. Having a trained and experienced third-party instructor might make learning to drive easier on your teen and you.

Driver’s ed is often required

As noted earlier, many states require satisfactory completion of a driver’s education course in order to sit for the written and road test for a driver’s license.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has information about teen drivers and current standards for driver education programs. Given that motor vehicle crashes continue to be a leading cause of death for young people ages 15 to 18, learning how to drive safely and getting sufficient practice are imperative for novice drivers.

When should your teen take a driver’s ed course?

The answer to this question requires you, as a parent, to assess several factors. First, there’s the legal age requirement. Check with your state’s DMV to find out if there’s a minimum age requirement that must be met in order for your teen to apply for a learner’s permit.

Next, try to assess your teen’s maturity objectively. This can be hard to do, but it’s important. Your teen will be behind the wheel of a vehicle that could cause serious bodily harm to either themselves or others. Does your teen grasp the magnitude of this step, and the responsibility that goes along with it?

If your teen is at least the minimum age to get a learner’s permit and is mature enough to handle the responsibility of driving, that’s when your teen should take a driver’s education course. It’s an important step to take on the path to becoming a safe driver with a clean driving record.

Also, don’t forget about insurance. Your auto insurance premiums will go up if you have a teen driver under your policy, so read up on how to find the best (and cheapest) options for insuring a teen driver.

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