You wouldn't want to fly with a pilot who had no experience or formal training. Likewise, letting your teen drive without the necessary education and licensure could mean danger to your teen and others on the road. Driver's education is an ideal first step in getting your teen licensed because it will help her learn about the basics, practice her skills and get the experience she needs to gain her license.
The general purpose of driver's education is to give your teen the foundation to help him feel safe, alert and comfortable behind the wheel. He'll learn everything from traffic laws -- specific to your state -- to actually practicing driving skills, parking and other techniques so he's more comfortable on the road. Driver's ed usually combines class time and lectures with hands-on practice time on a course and, eventually, on the road.
Driver's ed is more than just a nice way to get familiar with driving -- in most states, it's a requirement for getting a license. According to April 2012 data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 23 states require driver's ed for drivers younger than 18, while 25 states do not require driver's ed before age 18 but do allow licenses for younger drivers with the addition of driver's ed. Insurance costs are usually lower for teen drivers who have completed a course, so it's likely worth both your teen's time and your money.
Most driver's ed courses and classes will have similar curricula and requirements. Before your teen signs up, make sure the chosen course is state-approved and the instructor is licensed to teach driver's ed, warns the Highway Safety Center at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Each course is structured around 45 hours of in-class education where your teen will learn about traffic laws and driving methodology. Then, she will have at least eight hours of behind-the-wheel training with an instructor to give her some hands-on practice.
While driver's education is regulated by the state, don't expect one course to teach your teen everything he needs to know about operating a motor vehicle. While courses are heavy on methodology and traffic laws, your teen will need plenty of practice to feel comfortable and safe on the road. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry notes that parents are in the ideal position to help teens become better drivers. By helping your teen get more real-world practice -- and by staying patient and calm during the process -- you can help complement driver's education by helping him develop driving confidence.