AAA Offers Advice on Selecting a Quality Driving School for Teens

Mar 10, 2011, 09:10 ET from AAA

With traffic crashes the leading cause of death for teens, making sure new drivers have a foundation in basic driving skills is critical to their safety behind the wheel

ORLANDO, Fla., March 10, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Having a new teen driver in a household can be a stressful experience with good reason. Traffic crashes are the leading cause of death for teens, and more teens die from traffic crashes each year than by homicide, suicide and drugs and alcohol combined.

While it's critical that parents be fully engaged in their teens' process of learning to drive, AAA also recommends the use of a qualified, professional driving instructor, which is a requirement to receive a license in some states.

"Quality driving instruction provides the foundation needed for safe driving practices. Instructors ensure their students have the basic skills, knowledge and habits needed for safety on the road," said Dr. Bill Van Tassel, AAA National Manager of Driver Training Programs. "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."

However, not all driving schools are the same. To help parents identify the best driving school for their teen, AAA offers the following checklist:

  • Ask Friends and Neighbors. Seek recommendations and ask why they selected a particular driving school.
  • Call and Visit Several Schools. Ask to see classrooms and to observe part of a course. Classrooms should be clean, orderly and setup to conduct classroom sessions. Check that there is a desk for each student in the class with a clear view of any visual displays.
  • Review Course Curriculum or Textbook. There should be a study guide or textbook for each student. Materials should be current and in good condition. Each student also should receive a copy of the state driver's handbook.
  • Ensure Classroom and Behind-the-Wheel Sessions are Integrated. The ideal course integrates classroom and behind-the-wheel training. Classroom time should consist of a structured lesson plan that includes coverage of risk prevention and the fundamentals of defensive driving practices. Behind-the-wheel sessions should correspond with the classroom lesson plan to reinforce and demonstrate the practical usage of the concepts. Beginners learn best with two in-car lessons each week. Driving environments should include residential streets, city traffic, rural roads, highways and limited-access freeways.
  • Check the Details. Ask about refund policies, class make-up policies and remedial training policies. Find out if a signed contract is required.
  • Check References and Complaints. Check with the Better Business Bureau on any complaints against the school. Ask for references of previous students and parents that can be called about their experiences with the school.

When searching for a driving school, parents can consider AAA-affiliated schools. Any 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
  • Discounts to AAA members

Detailed tips about driving schools, as well as a driving school evaluation checklist, are available for free in AAA's Choosing a Driving School brochure, which is available to download online from AAA's Keys 2 Drive website.

Even with the use of a quality driving school, parental involvement is essential for teens to learn safe driving habits. AAA offers a wide variety of resources to guide parents through the process of their teens learning how to drive through its teen driver safety website—TeenDriving.AAA.com. The interactive site provides parents and teens with specific information based on where they live and where they are in the learning process—from preparing to drive (pre-permit) through the learner's permit and solo driving.  

As North America's largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 52 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. AAA clubs can be visited on the Internet at AAA.com.

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