Your teen is ready to drive? Here's how to pick a driving school.

Nearly half of US states require driver education for teens under 18. In choosing a driving school, look for one accredited by the AAA.  

Chris Stewart/Dayton Daily News/AP/File
Student driver Kaitlin Kearns takes a driving lesson from D&D Driving School instructor Bob White in Oakwood, Ohio, in January. Don't pick a driving school based on cost. Choose quality.

With summer almost here and your teenaged son or daughter looking to complete driver’s education courses, now is a good time to select a quality driving school to help provide your teen with a solid foundation of driving skills.

“Quality driving instruction provides the foundation needed for safe driving practices,” said Dr. Bill Van Tassel, manager, AAA Driver Training Programs. “Instructors ensure their students have the basic skills, knowledge and habits needed for safety on the road.

“Using a third-party instructor also can eliminate some of the added stress and emotion that can occur between parents and teens and allow a calmer focus on learning to drive safely,” VanTassel added.

Mandatory or not?

According to an April 2012 report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), “Fresh Look at the State of Driver Education in America,” 23 states require driver’s education for those under the age of 18.

These include: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.

As part of the “Fresh Look” report, the NHTSA held in-depth discussions with driver licensing officials in 40 states and conducted other extensive research efforts for the remaining states to document the current status of driver education in the United States. One of the data points was that all but one of the states indicated that instructors had to be certified to teach driver education.

Choosing the right driver training school

Once parents opt to send their teen to a driver training school rather than shoulder the task of teaching driving skills themselves, most parents choose a school based on cost, duration of the program, location and convenience, and where their teen’s friends will go or went. Instead, advises the AAA, parents should make their choice based on quality first, and then any other factors.

“Remember that the art and science of driving safety has changed since you learned how to drive,” said Van Tassel. “Be open to learning new techniques through your teen as he or she moves through a quality driver-education program.”

In some households, the battle over which driving school for teens to attend may take some careful navigating. Suppose your teen wants to go to the same school as his close friend is planning to attend but your research finds that it’s not as good as school B? What should you do?

“This is very serious, as driving is the most risky activity a teen will likely experience,” said Van Tassel. “Parents should clearly communicate that input from the teen will be received and appreciated, but the decision will rest with the parent and quality will be the overriding factor considered.

Any driving school that displays the AAA logo has been thoroughly reviewed and must maintain:

  • Late-model, safe driver training cars
  • Up-to-date training materials
  • Professionally trained instructors
  • A record of good business practices

Beyond that, the AAA says that a quality driver-education program is just the starting point. “It’s up to you to conduct effective supervised practice driving, coaching your teen toward life-long safe driving habits in a variety of driving conditions,” Van Tassel said .

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