Just yesterday you were taking the training wheels off her bike, and now she’s ready to get her learner’s permit. Where did the time go? What happened to your baby?
Driving lessons or life lessons?
Before you get too absorbed in the nostalgia, there's an important decision to make: Who is going to teach this child how to drive?
Driving ages and licensing procedures vary from state to state. To qualify for an actual driver's license, many states require driver's education classes during the permit time frame. These classes attempt to ensure a consistent level of professional guidance and instruction before a teen can take full control of a couple tons of accelerating metal.
But I can teach her
Yes, you probably can. But are you the most effective teacher? How will your parent-child dynamic play into the driving lessons? Think back to your own early driving years. Were you more likely to listen or roll your eyes when your dad tried to give you driving advice? Exactly. Even if your state doesn't require driver's education, it might still be a very good idea.
Choosing a driving school
Not all driver's education options are alike: Opening up a school doesn't necessarily mean an instructor is a good instructor -- or even a good driver. Choosing a program is more than convenient classes, times and best price. The best driving schools will talk about handling difficult traffic situations and about the kinds of personalities one might encounter on the road, as well as testing knowledge of road rules and monitoring braking and turn signals.
Ask for recommendations
You are not the first person in your neighborhood to have to choose a driving school. Ask your neighbors, friends at the community center and the parents of your child's friends what schools they can recommend.
Check with your local motor vehicle department
In many states with driver's education as a state requirement, driver's education schools have to be credentialed. Your local motor vehicle department should be able to tell you how recently the school had credentials granted or renewed and have a record of any issues with the school.
Ask to sit in on a class
Before committing to a lengthy series of classes, not to mention the hit to your bank account, ask to sit in on a class. This will tell you a lot about the instructor's style, depth of knowledge and rapport with the students.
Search the Internet
An Internet search hopefully will turn up only nice and happy things about a driving instructor or school -- but a mom has been known to come across information about multiple DUI arrests for a local instructor in more than one case.
Check with your insurance company, too
Since insurance companies tend to like it when teen drivers get some formal driving education, your insurance company may have a recommended vendor list.
Learning to drive is a major rite of passage. Your child may be raring (revving!) to go, but good driver's education is well worth the cost, both in skill building for your child and peace of mind for you.
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