As summer winds down, many families have been using their teens' extra hours of free time to get in lots of practice driving. Parents often ask me year-round what to look for in a driving school and how to support their teens' practice driving. I tell them that high-quality driver's ed and effective parent-supervised driving practice are key to preventing teen crashes, the No. 1 cause of death for adolescents in the United States.
Choose a driving school with care, equipped with knowledge. Many states require drivers to complete specific driver-education training courses and behind-the-wheel driving before they can get an intermediate license. Make sure the driving-school curriculum matches or exceeds your state's requirements.
The best driver-education programs not only teach driving skills, but also supervise parents in practicing those skills. These schools promote deliberate interaction between their licensed, certified driver-education instructors and parents to ensure that new skills are assessed at each stage and mastered before the teen takes the behind-the-wheel test at the DMV. If you have a teen with special needs who wants to drive, the Association for Driver Rehabilitation Specialists offers a directory to help you find a professional in your area.
What else should you look for in a driving school? Here are some helpful tips:
Whether you choose to use a driving school or not, be sure to log plenty of parent-supervised practice-driving hours. Use an evidence-based program, such as the TeenDrivingPlan Practice Guide created by the Teen Driver Safety Research team at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Keep in mind that safe driving requires situation awareness and appropriate response. To avoid a crash, a skilled driver perceives the environment, shifts attention dynamically to the most relevant road elements, comprehends potential hazards, predicts changes in the traffic environment and actions of other road users, and draws from memory to avoid crashes.