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What's The Best Place For Your Teen To Learn How To Drive?

Teen driving instruction - AAA Driver Training Programs

Teen driving instruction - AAA Driver Training Programs

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With summer almost here and your teenaged son or daughter looking to complete driver’s education courses, now is a good time to select a quality driving school to help provide your teen with a solid foundation of driving skills.

“Quality driving instruction provides the foundation needed for safe driving practices,” said Dr. Bill Van Tassel, manager, AAA Driver Training Programs (pictured in photos with teens). “Instructors ensure their students have the basic skills, knowledge and habits needed for safety on the road.

“Using a third-party instructor also can eliminate some of the added stress and emotion that can occur between parents and teens and allow a calmer focus on learning to drive safely,” Van Tassel added.

Teen driving instruction - AAA Driver Training Programs

Teen driving instruction - AAA Driver Training Programs

Enlarge Photo

Mandatory or not?

According to an April 2012 report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), “Fresh Look at the State of Driver Education in America,” 23 states require driver’s education for those under the age of 18.

These include: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.

As part of the “Fresh Look” report, the NHTSA held in-depth discussions with driver licensing officials in 40 states and conducted other extensive research efforts for the remaining states to document the current status of driver education in the United States. One of the data points was that all but one of the states indicated that instructors had to be certified to teach driver education.

Teen driving instruction - AAA Driver Training Programs

Teen driving instruction - AAA Driver Training Programs

Enlarge Photo

Choosing the right driver training school

Once parents opt to send their teen to a driver training school rather than shoulder the task of teaching driving skills themselves, most parents choose a school based on cost, duration of the program, location and convenience, and where their teen’s friends will go or went. Instead, advises the AAA, parents should make their choice based on quality first, and then any other factors.

“Remember that the art and science of driving safety has changed since you learned how to drive,” said Van Tassel. “Be open to learning new techniques through your teen as he or she moves through a quality driver-education program.”

In some households, the battle over which driving school for teens to attend may take some careful navigating. Suppose your teen wants to go to the same school as his close friend is planning to attend but your research finds that it’s not as good as school B? What should you do?

“This is very serious, as driving is the most risky activity a teen will likely experience,” said Van Tassel. “Parents should clearly communicate that input from the teen will be received and appreciated, but the decision will rest with the parent and quality will be the overriding factor considered.

Teen driving instruction - AAA Driver Training Programs

Teen driving instruction - AAA Driver Training Programs

Enlarge Photo

Any driving school that displays the AAA logo has been thoroughly reviewed and must maintain:

  • Late-model, safe driver training cars
  • Up-to-date training materials
  • Professionally trained instructors
  • A record of good business practices

Beyond that, the AAA says that a quality driver-education program is just the starting point. “It’s up to you to conduct effective supervised practice driving, coaching your teen toward life-long safe driving habits in a variety of driving conditions,” Van Tassel said .

Check out the tools available to parents to do this at

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  1. Asking neighborhood teens about their driver's ed experience is an excellent way to research the quality of a specific program, or instructor. The kids know ... and they'll tell you their honest opinion.

    Parents who are sincere about helping their own teenagers become good drivers, should look for resources to help them.

    There is an excellent DVD called "Roadworthy: a Parent's Guide to Teaching Teens to Drive (12 Lessons to Keep Your Teen Alive Behind the Wheel)." It is filled with extremely helpful ideas for parents and teens, like safe & easy ways to practice freeway-ramp merging.

    The DVD was created by a veteran crash investigator and driving instructor named Mike Pehl. It's available at
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