Many teens and parents may be looking now at driver education options, including online driver education, to prepare for summer when teens typically do much of their driving. But how do novice teen drivers and parents go about determining whether online driving education is appropriate? And how does one select an online driver education program?
Much of the same research that goes into selecting traditional driver education with classroom and behind-the-wheel instruction can be applied to selecting a quality online driver education course, according to the Automobile Club of Southern California’s Driving School Manager Melissa Vega.
Both types of driver education programs should have the same goal, Vega said: to prepare student drivers to understand the rules of the road and also to prepare them for behind-the-wheel instruction. “The reason why this is so critical is that motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teens age 16-19,” she said.
Teen Driver Risks
The risks California teens face are real: In California, according to the Office for Traffic Safety, teen motor vehicle fatalities for teens (age 16-19) increased nearly two percent from 2013 to 2014. And teen driver fatalities age 16-19 increased 26.4 percent from 72 in 2013 to 91 in 2014. Males make up 76 percent of teen driver fatalities.
“Quality instruction, including online instruction, is necessary for safe driving and learning good driving habits,” said Vega. “It could save a life. So it’s important for parents to be fully invested in their teen's driving instruction, especially if it’s online education as well as in-car lessons and supervised practice.”
Laying a good foundation of driver education and behind-the-wheel driving skills will help young drivers later on with resisting poor driver behavior like texting while driving, running red lights and speeding, which the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety recently found to be exhibited by millennial drivers (ages 19-24) – earning them the top spot for the worst behaved U.S. drivers.
The Auto Club’s Vega recommends researching and identifying the best online driver education program, and that parents and teens:
Ask friends and family. Don’t just ask for the name of the online education program, but why it was selected and what features it had for successful understanding of the “rules of the road.”
Ensure quality online content. Make sure that the curriculum is state-approved and that there are structured lesson plans that the teen can move through at a steady pace. Quality programs incorporate interactive activities, videos and quizzes, according to Vega. Ensure that teens absorb online lessons gradually. Teens cannot incorporate all the online driver education components in one day or even one week, said Vega.
Check the Dept. of Motor Vehicles web site. Look under the Occupational Licensing area https://www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/dmv/detail/portal/olinq2/welcome to confirm the school license, plus any administrative actions. It will also specifically state the school is licensed to provide online instruction and classes.
Find a school that emphasizes learning. The goal should be to understand the rules of the road, and to be prepared for behind-the-wheel training and supervised practice, not just getting sufficient information to pass the Dept. of Motor Vehicles exam to be issued a permit.
Find an online driver education program that’s been around. Online driver education schools can come and go, but typically quality programs last longer.
Check references and complaints. Check with the Better Business Bureau for any complaints against the school. Ask for references of previous students and parents that can be called about their experience with the online driver education program.