Picking the right driving school a difficult choice

PEMCO guidelines help make the right decision for teen drivers



​​​SEATTLE – As teens clamor for the car keys, responsible parents find themselves with a difficult, but critical decision: To which driving school should they entrust the training and welfare of their children? The right decision can develop a skilled, confident, and attentive young driver who will appreciate and enjoy his or her driving privileges for many years. The wrong choice could lead to trouble.

Parents' involvement in this choice is made all the more urgent by a series of recent closures of driving schools throughout the state, leaving students without access to accredited schools. State regulators found that many students were taught by unlicensed instructors, including ex-felons.

PEMCO Insurance understands the importance of this decision and offers guidelines for parents to make a decision everyone can live with. Jon Osterberg, PEMCO spokesman, offered the following guidelines:

  1. Research as many schools as you can. There are lots of choices, but not all schools, their staffs, and their vehicles are equally well-run, trained, screened, or maintained.
  2. Ask to see copies of licenses for both the school and individual instructors.
  3. Ask for proof the school is both certified and insured.
  4. Ask how long the school has been operating.
  5. Ask if any instructors have criminal records, particularly relating to misconduct with minors. (This could be important if your daughter, for example, needs one-on-one driving instruction, without other students in the car.) Parents also can do an Internet search on their own.


Finally, do not think of the driving school as a substitute for parents driving with and evaluating their own teenagers. Parents need to know exactly where a student's judgment, emotional development, hand-eye coordination, and concentration stand in relation to their burgeoning driving skills.

"The more parents are involved with their teen's driving instruction, the better off the teen will be ? on and off the road," Osterberg said.

PEMCO does not rate or endorse individual driving schools, Osterberg said. Instead, PEMCO recommends parents look for schools that offer:

  1. Sufficient hours of behind-the-wheel experience. Some programs will, upon request, give the teen more seat time and one-on-one time with an instructor.
  2. Exposure to different driving conditions they will encounter in the real world, such as rain, darkness, heavy traffic, and urban conditions.
  3. Good references. Parents should ask for references for the school itself and individual instructors. Parents should inspect vehicles to see that they're well-maintained, late-model cars.
  4. Instructions on how to find addresses. Getting lost creates anxiety and adds risk for novice drivers.


This year, the Washington state Legislature proposed stiffening requirements for driving schools under Senate Bill 5036 and SB 5333, which would have modified the intermediate drivers' license (IDL) and training provisions. Some of the suggested changes included:

  1. Increasing the minimum age for a learner's permit to 16, regardless of whether the teen is currently in a driver education program.
  2. Drivers under 18 must be actively attending school, or in a GED program.
  3. Along with a learner's permit, the Department of Licensing (DOL) would issue a log book to parents to record supervised driving hours.
  4. The IDL would prohibit driving between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. for the entire period of the IDL.
  5. Passenger restrictions for drivers under age 20 would remain in force for the entire IDL.
  6. The requirement for supervised driving practice would increase to 60 hours to qualify for the IDL.


The DOL oversees all traffic safety and driver education, ensuring a consistent curriculum integrating classroom and behind-the-wheel instruction.

While only SB 5036 passed the Legislature this session ? and all it did was repeal the sunset clause on intermediate licensing ? parents should be aware of a continuing push to toughen licensing requirements for teen drivers and the schools that teach them.

About PEMCO Insurance

PEMCO Insurance, established in 1949, is a Seattle-based provider of auto, home, boat, life, and umbrella insurance to Washington state residents. PEMCO Insurance is sold by community agents throughout the state and through PEMCO offices. For more information, visit www.pemco.com.