Choosing a Driving School

Quality instruction provides the foundation for safe driving

Driving school is a time-tested method for training teen drivers and has been proven to statistically reduce the number of fatal accidents. While AAA does not recommend a specific driving school, we urge the parents of teenagers to take an active role in selecting an appropriate driving school.

You can also order our interactive driver education DVD, Driver-ZEDTM, available to everyone and FREE for Members. Get your copy today. 
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Driving School Instruction
Structured classroom and behind-the-wheel instruction are the first steps in preparing students for driving in today's traffic. Professional instructors can provide comprehensive training that addresses the mistakes new drivers are likely to make.

Supplementing the Classroom Experience -- Parent Involvement is a Must
The driver's education instructor cannot be the only person to work with the new driver. As a parent, you are the person who cares most about your teenager's driving ability and safety. Getting a driver license is not the end of learning to drive. The six hours of behind-the-wheel instruction a new driver receives in many states falls far short of the amount of time actually needed to learn to drive.

Ask friends and neighbors to recommend a driving school
Why did they select this specific school? What pleased them about the experience?

Call several schools
Find out the course schedule, fees, registration procedures, and the dates and times of the next available courses.

Visit the school
Ask to see the classrooms and observe part of a course. Classrooms should be clean, have a desk available for each student, have instructional equipment and visual aids visible from all desks.

Ask to see the course curriculum and textbook
There should be a current study guide or book for each student. Each student should also receive a copy of the state driver's handbook.

Check the Driver Education School License
It should be displayed in the school's business office.

Ask how many fully-licensed driver education instructors work for the school
How many teach the classroom, behind the wheel, or both phases of the course? A good ratio is thirty students to five instructors. This allows sufficient time for students to complete the training in approximately twelve weeks.

Check classroom vs. behind the wheel sessions
An ideal program integrates both. The classroom should consist of a structured lesson plan that includes coverage of risk prevention and defensive driving practices. Behind the wheel sessions should reinforce, through practice, the classroom concepts. Beginners learn best with two in-car lessons each week.

What to look for

•  Classroom and behind the wheel lessons should be supported by practice lessons.
•  Schools should offer interactive educational tools to help parents provide at least 50 hours of supervised, supplemental driving experience for novice drivers.
•  Driving environments should include residential streets, city traffic, rural roads, highways, and limited-access freeways.
•  Students should receive limited visibility-traction instruction at night and in poor weather.

Ask to see the driver education vehicles
Instructional vehicles should be late model cars in good condition and have the following equipment:

•  two exterior side mirrors
•  rearview mirror, eye check mirror, and dual control brake for the instructor
•  safety belts, air bags, and head restraints
•  wedge shaped seat cushions and/or pedal extensions to improve visibility for students of small stature
•  a large "Student Driver" sign, as well as one that identifies the driving school, to alert other drivers that the driver behind the wheel is learning to drive.

Find out about the instructors
Consider their experience. School management and staff should have successfully completed a minimum of three professional development courses and be licensed by the state. Continuing education ensures that instructors teach current information.

Students with disabilities
Students with disabilities should choose a school with instructors and equipment particular to their specific needs. The Association of Driver Rehabilitation Specialists (ADED) can provide information about facilities in your area.

Check details
Find out about refund policies, class make-up policies and how the school resolves complaints. Check with the Better Business Bureau, which keeps files of complaints and compliments received about local businesses.

Ask for references
Get the names of previous students and parents you may call. Ask them about their experience with the school.

Cost considerations
Cost is one of many factors to consider when choosing a school. Driver education costs range in price and in structure, so you will need to factor in some basic information, such as:

•  Amount of classroom instruction offered combined with behind-the-wheel training.
•  A typical driver-training package consists of 30 hours of classroom instruction and six to ten hours behind the wheel.
•  Additional behind the wheel lessons beyond the state's requirement may be offered at a per hour fee.
•  Fees may be incurred when the new driver misses a session.

Resolving Concerns
A professional driving school will help new drivers learn proper vehicle-control techniques, not just prepare them to pass the state's driver exam. If you feel the driving school is not providing sufficient instruction to meet this goal, talk with the instructor or the school manager. If corrective action is not taken, contact the Department of Motor Vehicles or Better Business Bureau.

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