Behind the Wheel
A few tips on teaching teens to drive
If you have a child about to celebrate his or her 16th birthday, driver’s licenses have likely been a frequent topic in your house. For those of you navigating this for the first time with your oldest, it can be very overwhelming, a little scary, and sometimes confusing.
In the State of Connecticut, individuals must be 16 years old in order to obtain a driving permit. A “permit” is the temporary documentation needed to practice driving with a licensed adult in the car, and requires passing a written test taken at the Department of Motor Vehicles. A study guide is available online, and there is also an app students can download to their smartphones. Students are informed immediately if they passed and will be given a temporary paper permit. The official one will arrive by mail in about a week.
Once the learner’s permit is in hand, the real fun begins. Parents are required to spend a minimum of 40 hours practicing with their newly permitted driver behind the wheel before they will be eligible to take a road test. That’s a lot of strap-grabbing rides. In addition to practicing with a parent or other licensed adult driver, Connecticut requires teens to complete additional class training, which can be obtained in two ways: by enrolling at a verified commercial driving school (see sidebar), or by downloading a training guide from the DMV and completing training at home. All students are required to complete an eight-hour Safe Driving Practices course that includes a two-hour parent class. This class is available at all commercial driving schools, and is also offered at some secondary schools. If this course is not completed, students must wait until they are eighteen to take a road test.
If you choose to enroll your child at a commercial driving school, they all offer essentially the same package: 30 hours of classroom training (including the aforementioned Safe Driving Practices course and a two-hour parent/child safety class), and eight hours of “behind the wheel” lessons with a certified instructor. Price varies considerably, as does class flexibility, location, and convenience of scheduling, so be sure to shop around.
Those completing a formal driving school program are eligible to take their road test 120 days after receiving a permit, whereas the home-schooled students must wait an additional 60 days (180 days total). Most driving schools offer on-site road tests to their students, administered by a DMV representative. The tests are typically not included in the price of the class, and slots book up quickly. Most schools advise scheduling a road test shortly after obtaining a permit. Road tests are also available most weekdays at certain DMV locations, where you will be required to arrive with a fully registered, insured vehicle in which to take the test. If the road test is taken via a commercial school, you will use a company car for this purpose, and will still need to go to the DMV seventy two hours after passing in order to obtain your license. In other words, you are not entirely avoiding the DMV by taking the test at a driving school.
Shannon Garrett, a high school junior at Warde, chose Fresh Green Light for her training. “The times of the classes coordinated well with my athletics schedule,” she explains. “I liked how we learned stories that really stuck with us, and the cookies were an added bonus!” She plans to take her driving test through the school as well because she describes the process as “convenient and smooth.” Ludlowe junior, Laurel Murphy, enrolled at Chase Driving School, which she chose for its proximity to her home and competitive pricing. She also liked that she could go to class any day she was available and the instructor would tailor the class to who was in attendance and what topics still needed to be covered. Not everyone opts for a commercial driving school. Abby O’Donnell, also a junior at Ludlowe, was homeschooled for her license. “It proved to be easier, schedule-wise, and it was less expensive,” she explains. “Spending time with my dad was one of the big reasons my parents liked it,” she continues. “It put him at ease because he was able to witness, firsthand, my development as a driver.”
Places To Learn
The Driving School of Fairfield
1735 Post Road
Fresh Green Light
“Best Driving School in Fairfield County,” Fairfield Magazine Readers Choice Awards
1495 Black Rock Turnpike
Chase Auto Driving School
Allows students to take test in the car they practice in.
Epic Driving School
Offers five different training course packages.
1335 Wood Ave, Bridgeport
The Next Street
Offers classes at both Fairfield high schools.
877 Post Rd. East Suite 7, Westport
Pole Position Driving School
Offers 8 hour safe driver course ($125) and driving lessons ($60/hr)
127 Tunxis Hill Cut Off South