Driver’s Ed 101

Getting your driver’s license offers great freedom and teaches even greater responsibility. Whether you’re a 15-year-old sophomore or a 50-year-old adult, learning to drive requires testing, practice, and training that varies across the nation. 

Classroom Education 

As part of the licensing process for first-time teen drivers, 23 states require driver education for anyone under the age of 18. The majority of state programs include 30 hours of classroom instruction, though the lowest number of required hours is 8 and the highest mandated number is 56.

In most states, the State Department of Education oversees high school driver education covering general standards. While 12 states have created specific curriculum guidelines for their driver training programs, not all of them require individual agencies to follow that curriculum. The majority of states have core topics to cover, but have no requirements on how those topics should be covered or how the standards are implemented. The majority of states do require instructors to be certified to teach driver education.

Behind the Wheel 

Most programs require six hours of behind-the-wheel training, where the teenager drives with a certified instructor. There are extremes, however, with some states not requiring any BTW time and some mandating a 20-hour BTW training. In the learning permit phase, some states require that parents spend a certain number of hours with their teenager driving in a variety of situations, such as rural, suburban, city, and highway driving. Additional experiences include nighttime driving, and driving in rain, snow, and other elements. Parental involvement is crucial during this phase, as it has proven extremely important for teens not only to log many hours of driving, but also to learn lessons of safety and accountability from a responsible parent.


The primary focus and content of most current driver’s education programs is training drivers to pass the licensing exams. Driver training does result in high rates of passing these exams, and therefore seems to provide increased safety benefits, such as teaching the importance of wearing seatbelts and reducing speeding behavior. Most states encourage pre-licensing education to begin as early as kindergarten, presenting a foundation for safe driving skills at age-appropriate levels.

When the new teenage driver applies for a learning permit, there is a test to determine whether the applicant demonstrates relevant knowledge of basic driving information. Teens then have a period of time in which to apply their knowledge and skills to a variety of driving situations. Most states mandate a set amount of practice hours spent with a parent.

Once the necessary driver education requirements are met, some states are already instituting a Restricted License phase. During this phase, teens have the freedom to drive alone with certain restrictions, such as how many passengers are allowed, or how many practice hours must be recorded.

Adult Driver Education 

Adults who would like to pursue a driver’s license still need to take the general test to acquire a learner’s permit. They are typically given the option to complete six hours of driving training, either through an online defensive driving school or in a classroom; however, behind-the-wheel training is not typically required in most states.

It’s important to educate yourself on your state’s unique requirements for driver education.

John is the marketing coordinator for Education Location. He is interested in online continuing education courses and keeping up-to-date with current news.

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