Few parenting milestones can match that heart-in-throat moment when you watch for the first time as your teen driver backs out of the driveway – solo. But there is a way to worry less: Make sure your child has the benefit of driver's education training. Studies show that teens who take driver's ed are significantly less likely to get a ticket or have an accident during their first year of driving compared to kids who don't.
Fellow parents are a great resource when comparing programs in your area. You'll want to look for one that:
Emphasizes safety. If its website touts "fast," "easy" and "passing the driver's test," move on. You want schools that strive to build solid, basic skills. Do that, and the driver's test will take care of itself.
Offers enough time behind the wheel. Classes should include at least six hours of on-the-road training, done over several days.
Spreads out the learning so lessons have a chance to sink in. Look for at least 36 hours (including on-the-road time), stretching nine weeks or more.
Goes light on emergency maneuvers. Some research suggests that teens who take "advanced" courses that teach skid control and high-speed maneuvering have higher crash rates, perhaps owing to overconfidence.
Willingly shares its written curriculum with you.
Welcomes and gives suggestions. Just as not all kids learn to read the same way, not all learn to drive the same way, either.
Offers extra instruction for kids who are struggling to master a particular skill (expect to pay more for any additional hours).
Keeps its instruction cars in good condition and its classroom tools (like simulators and computer software) up to date.