What Are the Benefits of Driver's Ed Classes?

By Erica Loop
Behind-the-wheel training helps your teen learn in real situations.

Between the risk-taking behaviors and novice skills teen drivers possess, 16- to 19-year-olds are more at risk for crashing a car than other age groups. In 2011, emergency rooms treated roughly 292,000 teens for motor vehicle-related injuries, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. While the statistics are scary, you can reduce the risk and help your teen to be a safer driver. Driver’s education classes help teens to learn safe practices and understand the rules of the road, and the classes may even put some money back in your pocket.

Paying for Classes

Some states that require driver's ed classes for new drivers also require that you pay for them. While some public schools and state-run agencies offer these classes at no charge, you might have to pay a private company. For example, a 16-year-old in Georgia must complete a state Department of Driver Services-certified driver’s education class to obtain a license. Even though the state certifies the schools, they are independent from any publically funded agency. Private driving schools, such as these, require a fee per class. The fees for driver’s education courses vary depending on the school. Whether your state offers free driver's ed or you must pay for it, the classes provide multiple benefits for new drivers.

Getting a License

Graduated driver licensing is a process that helps teens to slowly get acquainted with driving through education and hands-on practice. The goals behind state GDL programs including expanding the learning process with more supervised practice, gaining experience through low-risk driving before moving on to other conditions, and motivating teens to use safe-driving behaviors, notes the American Academy of Pediatrics’ HealthyChildren.org website.

State’s GDL requirements vary. Completing a driver’s ed course is typically part of the process. In some states, teens can’t get an instructional or learner’s permit until they have completed the educational part of driver training. Taking driver’s ed may be required before your teen can get her license. If she skips this step, she may have to wait until she is 19 or older to drive.

Learning Safe Driving Skills

Even though getting license as soon as possible is a definite plus for your teen, in your eyes, safety may be more of a consideration. Driver’s education classes provide your child with knowledge he needs to make smart decisions, follow the law and operate an auto in a safer way. For example, the state of Virginia’s driver’s ed programs aim to teach students general driving skills, ways to respond in dangerous situations and a safe driving attitude. This knowledge may make your teen less likely to engage in risky behavior behind the wheel or help him in a sticky situation such as a snow storm or foggy night.

Giving You a Discount

Not only does driver’s ed give your teen some of the skills she needs to get behind the wheel, but it also has a financial benefit. Aside from the sense of security you feel when you think of the hours your teen spent learning how to be a safe driver, you may also enjoy a discount from your auto insurance provider. The requirements vary, so ask your insurance carrier about discounts for teens who complete driver's ed courses and what proof they might need, such as certificates of completion.

Adding in Real-World Practice

It takes more than classes to create safe drivers. Used alone, driver’s ed classes may not significantly reduce the number of teen auto accidents in America, notes the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Safer Car website.

Sitting in a classroom and reading books gives your teen facts she needs to know, but it doesn’t provide real-world practice. Choosing a driver’s ed course that also includes a practical component raises the likelihood your teen will better understand what safe driving truly is. Graduated driver licensing programs that require teens to take driver’s education along with racking up a set number of supervised driving hours work best to build safe behaviors and attitudes.

About the Author

Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.