Driving school vs home lessons: are your teens prepared?

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If you’re of a certain age, you remember what it was like to get a driver’s license.

“Driver’s Ed” was taught in high school. Parents put it blank in the passenger seat while their kids practiced navigating the roads.

Many of these school programs are long gone – victims of budget considerations and accountability issues.

Now, some parents are paying for private driver training programs that can cost hundreds of dollars, while others are trying to teach teens the basics on their own.

“I own a driving school, so I’m pretty biased,” says Maria Wojtczak, co-founder of Driving MBA. “In the United States, we talk about a privilege, but we really treat it like a right.”

In Wojtczak’s program, teens first learn on a simulator before hitting the road with an instructor. They’re then faced with another simulator that can mimic dangerous situations teens might one day encounter in a real car, like a tire bursting at highway speeds.

“I think the simulated process is really good because they can simulate things they’re going to encounter, which is also less scary than when it’s actually happening,” says Driving MBA parent Dave Entwistle. “I think it’s a win-win.”

Not all schools offer sophisticated simulators, and even the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has criticized many driver training programs.

A report from the IIHS states that “formal evaluations of U.S. high school driver training programs indicate little or no reduction in crashes per licensed driver,” adding that certain types of advanced training appear to “increase risk accidents, especially among young men”. However, the IIHS noted that “hazard perception training” led to a 24% drop in the accident rate among males aged 16 to 18.

“Not all driving schools are created equal, so it really depends on the type of training and education the student receives,” says Wojtczak.

She also reminds parents that their kids won’t just be driving down quiet suburban streets. They will also need to know how to cross multiple lanes on a highway during rush hour and navigate busy college campuses with many pedestrians and even light rail trains also on the road.

Wojtczak said, “It’s a huge responsibility for a teenager and for his parents. It’s dangerous. It’s the most dangerous time in a teenager’s life right now, when he’s learning to drive.”


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