Not Meeting the Minimum

Driving schools’ oversight puts student drivers at risk

Local driving schools may not be giving you the total bang for your buck when it comes to completing the licensing process, and if that’s the case, they’re violating state mandated requirements and putting the drivers at risk of losing their license.

Behind The Wheel driving schools are required by the state of Virginia to make sure that teen drivers complete at least 14 total 50 minute sessions driving with a certified instructor; seven behind the wheel and seven observing but it’s becoming more frequent for these lessons to be shorter than legally required.

Philip Roper, a driver’s education teacher and former driving instructor, said he hears of driving schools not completing the requirements provided by the DMV fairly often.

“Most high school students would like to be done sooner rather than later, and some parents may be caught in a bind where they need their son or daughter to have the license as soon as possible,” Roper said. “Unfortunately, this means we are putting drivers out on the road that really aren’t ready to drive. I’ve had plenty of instances where parents have brought their student driver to me after not being satisfied with what another instructor had taught (or not taught) and said they were ready to drive after three days. Each time, I found that those student drivers still needed a lot more time behind the wheel.”

Students should beware of red flags when signing up for a driving school.

“Best thing to do is to ask around,” said Roper. “If you sign up for behind-the-wheel and they say you are done after 2 or 3 sessions, then they are not completing the state mandated requirements.

Those drivers run the risk of losing their licenses because they have not completed the state mandated requirements. The requirements are for seven periods of driving and seven periods of observation. This means that behind-the-wheel should take a minimum of seven days.”

Some students that have been licensed without completing all of the seven sessions share their experiences with the Behind-The-Wheel companies they chose.

“I only had to do three full-hour sessions with my driving school even though my parents paid for the full seven day course. My fourth day was just the 15 minute driving test, and after that I got my license immediately,” said a senior girl. “Although I consider myself a good driver, I wish the company had fulfilled the state driving school requirements because that’s what we paid for. Also, there’s a risk I could lose my license if someone finds out I didn’t do the minimum seven day requirement.”

“I was surprised to find out that so many people get away with only completing four sessions of Behind the Wheel,” said a junior girl. “It’s concerning to think that there are kids on the road (including myself) that have not met the full requirement. I think that every student driver needs to meet each and every requirement because the damage of what driving accidents can cause are too serious to cheat the system for.”

The approved requirements are designed to ensure that teen drivers know what they are doing and how to be safe before they take off on their own. So, even though you may want to be licensed sooner, the company who let you go early could be in hot water with the DMV.