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What’s Involved in Teen Drivers Education

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It’s an exciting time when teens begin the process to become a licensed driver. However, this journey is heavily regulated by the state – although the specific rules vary from state to state – and it’s important for teens and their parents to understand the entire process takes some time. Here is a look, in general, at what you should expect from drivers education for teens.

Education choices. Many states require young, first-time drivers to complete a driver’s education class. How young can you begin? That ranges from 14 years old to 18 years old, depending on your state. The course is designed to help a teen driver succeed on the written exam, which is a necessary prerequisite to earning a learner’s permit and to receive behind-the-wheel training as well. However, many states give young drivers several choices. They can take driver’s education at school, sign up with a private company that offers a course certified by the state or have their parents or an older sibling teach a state-approved course. Check with your local Department of Motor Vehicles to find out what options are available in your state.

Graduated license program. The concept of a graduated licensing program for first-time drivers was created during the 1990s as a response to the relatively high accident rate for teen drivers, according to the Governors Highway Safety Administration. In most states, the first step is a learner’s permit, which is only issued after a teen passes an exam on road signs and driving safety rules. In a majority of states, a teen must also show successful completion of a driver’s education course certified by the state and a vision exam, to receive a learner’s permit. That permit generally only allows the young driver on the road if there is another licensed driver in the vehicle at the time. The second step of the graduated licensing program is a provisional license. This is only issued after the applicant passes a driving skills test and possession of a provision permit eases some of the restrictions, though most states do not allow provisional drivers on the roads between midnight and 5 a.m. The final step is the unrestricted license, which is earned after a six-month or one-year period or when the applicant turns 17 or 18 years old, depending on the state involved.

What to expect in driver’s education. All states require a significant amount of classroom instruction on road signs and rules of the road – often between 30 and 50 hours. Another 10 to 30 hours of behind-the-wheel instruction is also required. In most cases, the classroom instruction comes first before any students are taken out for actual driving instruction. Depending on the type of driver’s education course, students may be taken out in groups of two to three. While only actual time behind the wheel qualifies to meet state regulations, many driving experts believe young drivers can learn nearly as much by observing the successes and failures of other drivers. The goal of the behind-the-wheel driver’s training is to expose the young driver to both highway and local traffic and a variety of different signs and traffic signals.   

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