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Drivers Education

What is driver's ed/driver training?

One thing that differentiates people from animals is that we are born knowing how to do so few necessary tasks through instinct. Birds are born knowing how to navigate thousands of miles, and bees are born knowing how to find a promising bunch of flowers, how get back to the hive, and how to relay this information to the other bees. It would be wonderful if humans were born knowing how to drive a car in that same way, but it’s just not the case. So, in order to ensure that new drivers know what they are doing, driver's education classes are required for California teens who wish to get their first driver's license. In California, driver's ed consists of two separate courses. First, the state requires 30 hours of classroom instruction, called driver's education. California driver's education helps students learn the theories behind safe driving techniques and the rules of the road. Then, because students need to practice these newly acquired skills, the state also requires that they take California driver training, 6 hours of supervised practice behind the wheel of a vehicle.


Who is required to complete it?

In California, anyone under the age of 17 1/2 who wishes to get their driver's license has to complete both California driver's ed and California driver training. The classroom portion of the class helps to prepare students for the written test, while the driver training portion helps prepare them for the road test. The California driver's education (classroom) course must be taken before you apply for a learner's permit. Teenagers aged 17 1/2 can get a permit without taking California driver's ed but can't take the driving test to get an actual driver's license until they are 18. 


What agency regulates it

The California Department of Motor Vehicles presides over everything having to do with driving in the state of California, and that includes driver's ed. The DMV regulates California driving schools and reviews applications for licenses from new California driver's ed teachers. The DMV also approves curriculum and tells schools what topics need to be covered in the classroom portion of the course.


Who teaches it?

In California, both driver's ed courses and driver training courses are offered by public schools and licensed private driving schools. If you are home-schooled, your parents are not allowed to teach you the classroom portion. However, you can take the classroom portion separately from the driving portion if you choose to. If you prefer working at your own pace, there are courses available online that will fulfill the classroom requirement. Then, you can take the 6-hour behind-the-wheel course from a licensed driving school in your area. In smaller cities of under 50,000 people without licensed driving schools, independent driving instructors may be allowed to teach the behind-the-wheel portion of the course. These independent driving instructors must meet all of the requirements listed below, except that they do not have to be affiliated with a California driving school.
Instructor requirements

The DMV has the following requirements for licensed California driver's ed instructors:

  • They must have a high school degree or a GED
  • They must have passed a training course on how to teach California driver's ed
  • In order to become licensed, potential instructors must pass a three hour exam that covers how to teach effectively, how to drive safely, and California state traffic laws.
  • They must have a valid California driver's license and must not be on probation for excessive negative operator points or have an unresolved failure to appear (FTA) or failure to pay (FTP) on their driving record.
  • Driving instructors in California must be over 21.
  • They must be physically able to drive and to teach students how to drive. A driving instructor's license normally entitles an instructor to teach both the classroom and behind-the-wheel courses, but an applicant with a physical disability may receive a license that allows them to teach in the classroom only. 


Also, unless they are certified as independent driving instructors, they have to be employed by a licensed California driving school to teach driver's education or driver training.

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