Find a driver’s ed program that really works
Skip driver’s ed, and you’ll boost your risk of tickets and accidents. That’s the upshot of a recent University of Nebraska – Lincoln (UNL) study that refutes decades-old research that pooh-poohed the value of driver’s ed classes.
UNL researchers followed more than 150,000 teens over eight years – about half who had completed driver’s ed and half who hadn’t – and found that those who skipped it were 75% more likely to get a traffic ticket, 24% more likely to be involved in a fatal or injury accident, and 16% more likely to be involved in any kind of accident.
Kind of takes the sting out of writing that $500 check for driver’s ed, doesn’t it?
But before you commit to a specific program, check out the school. Ask around with other parents, and 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.
Also consider your child’s personality in finding the best fit with a driving school. Andrew H., a newly minted 16-year-old driver from Mill Creek, Wash., said his instructors at 911 Driving School – off-duty police officers and firefighters – made an impression.
“It’s one thing to have your parents tell you ‘do this’ and ‘do that,’” said Andrew. “But when you hear it from people who have pulled teens out of wrecked cars, you really listen. You believe them.”