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Driving school vs. home lessons: Are your teens prepared?

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Posted at 3:00 PM, Mar 23, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-24 01:26:59-04

If you're of a certain age, you remember what getting a driver's license used to look like.

"Driver's Ed" was taught in high school. Parents white-knuckled it in the passenger seat as their children practiced navigating the roads.

Many of those in-school programs are long gone — the victim of budget considerations and liability concerns.

Now, some parents pay for private driver training programs that can cost hundreds of dollars, while others try to teach teenagers 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 US, we talk about it being a privilege, but we really treat it as an entitlement."

In Wojtczak's program, teenagers first learn on a simulator before hitting the road with an instructor. They then face another simulator that can mimic dangerous situations the teens may one day encounter in a real car, like a tire blowing out at freeway speeds.

"I think the simulated process is really good because they can simulate stuff that they're going to run into, which is also less scary than when it actually happens," says Driving MBA parent Dave Entwistle. "I think it's a win-win."

Not every school offers sophisticated simulators and even the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has been critical of many driver education programs.

An IIHS report states, "formal evaluations of U.S. high school driver education programs indicate little or no reduction in crashes per licensed driver," adding some types of advanced skill training seems to "increase crash risk particularly among young males." However, the IIHS did note, "hazard perception training" resulted in a 24% lower crash rate among males 16 to 18.

"Not every driving school is created equal. So, it really depends on the type of training and education a student is getting," says Wojtczak.

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

Wojtczak says, "This is a huge responsibility for a teenager and for parents. It's dangerous. It's the most dangerous time in a teenager's life right now, when they're learning to drive."