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Signs of a good driving school -- good cars, good texts

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The student should also evaluate the instructor. It is not necessary to keep the same instructor for each lesson. The student must be comfortable and relaxed with the person who is training him.

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Be sure there's an option to change instructors after the first lesson if his temperament is not satisfactory.

The amount of time involved in learning how to drive varies from one individual to another, but 10 hours is the average at driving schools in the US. The age of the student, his emotional makeup, and the amount of time a student spends practicing will influence the number of lessons necessary.

Driving schools are not cheap, but they do get results. The rates usually run from $12 to $15 an hour. Be sure to ask the length of each lesson. What seems to be a bargain may be for a 45-minute lesson instead of a full hour. All lessons usually start at the student's home.

Most schools have special discounts for senior citizens and special driver-education packages for teen-agers.

Newfound confidence has no end. Some drivers continue the education so they can experience the thrill of precise driving.

Several driving schools will sharpen driving techniques that were already learned. Among other things, they teach the correct way to take a turn, handle a skid, and avoid accidents. They point out that the training gets mildly technical and most of it is out on the track in real formula Fords.

You'll be amazed if you just get out there and compare what the driver education field is offering. Those who want real proficiency should investigate some of these institutions, designed for the amateur racer. Here are a few:

* Bob Bondurant's School of High Performance Driving, Highways 37 and 121, Sonoma, Calif. 95476. Phone: (707) 938-4741.

A well-known year-round operation 30 miles north of San Francisco, the approach is step by step and thorough. Courses range from a one-day street and highway driving course to a five-day grand prix. Use your own car (in good condition) or one of the school's cars.

* Skip Barber Racing School, 1000A Massachusetts Avenue, Boxboro, Mass. 01719 . Phone: (617) 263-3771.

Geared to amateur racers, the school offers three-day racing courses in Lime Rock and Thompson, Conn.; Indianapolis Raceway Park; and in mid-Ohio, near Mansfield.

In late fall to early spring, Skip Barbor and his crew travel to race tracks across the country and usually to West Palm Beach, fla.

* Bill Scott Racing School, 1420 Spring Hill Road, McLean, Va. 22101.Phone: ( 703) 893-0215.

A one-day course (Solo One) starts with serious instruction in car control and ends with relays in which the 50 or so students compete for trophies. It's funa and costs only about $50. March through October.

* Jim Russell International, PO Box 1911, Rosamond, Calif. 93566. Phone: ( 805) 256-2715. You also can call the track at (805) 256-9906. This school, the oldest in the US, is 75 miles north of Los Angeles at Willow Springs. The five-day beginners' course is good for cautious, slow-starting amateurs.Students start out in station wagons but move up quickly to formula Fords. Instruction is year round.

The National Safety Council in every state offers a "defensive-driving course."

The 8 1/2-hour course costs $14 and is usually given on two consecutive Saturday mornings, three weekday mornings, or three weeknights -- whichever is most convenient to the driver.