Driver’s Ed

I was telling someone at work recently how Craig and I have taken it upon ourselves to start teaching Athena how to drive.  She’s fourteen now, and we own a manual transmission (stick shift), so we figured it was a good time to start getting her ready to handle the road.

And BOY HOWDY am I glad we’ve started this already!  The co-worker told me how abysmal the driving education courses are in California, and I actually started to understand why there are so many accidents involving teens out here.

Doing my research, I found that the “norm” for driving instruction is for students to take an online DMV course, and then take a separate on the road course by a driving school.  One of the schools I looked up had this to say about what they offered:

Our 6-hour Certificate topics can include:

• Speed control
• Freeway driving
• Three-part braking
• Intersections
• Lane changes
• Diagonal parking
• Parallel parking
• Hill driving and parking
• Mirrors and blind spots
• Turns at city traffic intersections
• Turns in residential neighborhoods
• Defensive driving
• Visual search method
• Freeway driving
• Bridges and tunnels
• Right of way rules
• Reaction to hazards

Please note: Topics are covered as time permits; additional hours may be required to cover all the skills listed, depending on the individual student’s abilities.

I nearly flipped my lid when I read this!  They expect to teach a teenager ALL THAT in 6 hours?  Yes, I see they mentioned “depending on the student’s abilities,” but c’mon!  Even a quick-learner would have a hard time learning all of that information in only six hours behind the wheel of a car!

I hate to sound like a cliché, remembering the “good old days,” but I was taught how to drive in high school . . . in an actual semester-long class!  We spent a few days a week sitting in a classroom, doing the book-learning, and the rest of the week had us out in a car, practicing what we had learned in class.  My high school had a second parking lot that was painted with all sorts of lines.  We were to follow those lines as driving paths, or as guidelines for parallel parking and whatnot.  Then, after we passed that portion of the class, we each had to take a road test.

All told, I’m guessing that I had about 20+ hours of behind the wheel experience before I even took my road test, and even then I was a little terrified about being out on the real streets, surrounded by other cars.  I can only imagine how terrified teens must be today to have such a small amount of instruction before trying to handle a 2-ton hunk of steel heading 60+ miles an hour down a 5-lane highway!  Throw in the proclivity to constantly be on their phones, texting their friends and whatnot, and it’s a recipe for disaster that truly does make me fear for my life while on the road with them!

My wonder is whether all high schools have taken driver’s ed off the curriculum, or if it’s just a California thing?  Would my high school even offer it anymore, or have they cut it out of their budget, along with the arts programs?  I’m not sure, but it honestly worries me.  With our population growing as quickly as it is, we need BETTER instruction for driving on the roads.  And what’s being offered isn’t good enough, in my opinion.

So parents, PLEASE take the time to teach your children to drive.  Start when they’re 14 or 15, and find an abandoned parking lot on a weekend somewhere.  Have them get behind the wheel with you in the car and teach them how to be good drivers.  Let them get over their initial fears before they take any driving class, and pass on what you know about parallel parking, how to properly stop and how to avoid crashes.

You never know . . . it just might save their life.

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