Driver education (DE) and driver training (DT) are offered at public and private high schools and state-licensed driving schools.
If you are under 18 years old, you are required to complete classroom DE at a licensed DT school before you can get your instruction permit. Your instruction permit will be valid after being signed by your professional driving instructor, once you have completed at least one hour of behind-the-wheel training. This training gives you the foundational skills, experience, and confidence you need to pass your driving test and become a safe driver for life.
Learn more about the requirements for first-time drivers in our Teen Drivers Guide.
Driver education (DE) teaches you about traffic laws, road safety, driver responsibilities, and avoiding accidents. It must consist of either 30 hours or 2 1/2 semester periods of professional classroom instruction (not including breaks or meal times) or a home study or internet training program. If you choose to do a home study or internet training program, it must meet the same requirements as classroom instruction. To learn more, check out the DE Curriculum.
Driver training (DT) gives you the opportunity to practice driving in real-world situations. DT must consist of at least six hours of behind-the-wheel training with a professional driving instructor. DT can’t exceed two hours per day, and if you’re in the car observing another driver, that time does not count toward your six-hour requirement.
Selecting a DT School
Students can take DE/DT in a California secondary school or in a state-licensed, professional driving school.
To ensure that your teenager receives the DE/DT they need, it’s important to select a driving school that you’re comfortable with, provides high-quality education and training, and employs instructors that are professional, respectful, and knowledgeable.
Here are some tips to help you select a driving school:
- Check the school’s license status on our Occupational License Status Information System database. The school must be licensed and bonded by the DMV.
- Contact your local Better Business Bureau (BBB). Driving schools aren’t required to be a member, but the BBB website is a good source of information for customer complaints.
- Compare tuition costs between driving schools and ask about any additional fees or charges to have a clear understanding of all expenses.
- Retain copies of all receipts, contracts, and other school documents.
- Make sure the instructors are licensed and pass qualifying examinations every three years or show proof of continuing traffic safety education. Check the driving school instructor’s license status by calling DMV at (916) 229-3126.
- Ask about the school’s training vehicles. Training vehicles must be:
- Equipped with an instructor foot brake and an additional rear view mirror.
- Insured with the required bodily injury and property damage liability insurance.
- Inspected yearly to ensure that the vehicle is in safe and proper mechanical condition.
- Used for instruction only (instructors aren’t allowed to take breaks or conduct personal business during behind-the-wheel training).
- Ask the driving school for a telephone number you can use in case of an emergency (behind-the-wheel training often occurs when the driver training school is closed).
- Ask about the school’s policy for canceling or rescheduling a behind-the-wheel training session.
- Choose a driving school in an area you’re familiar with. It is easier to learn to drive when you know the streets.
- Driving school personnel should avoid any physical contact with your teenager, except in an emergency.
Driver training schools establish their own policies regarding the following:
- Program length and schedule.
- Videos and movies containing graphic scenes of traffic accidents (licensed schools are required to show at least 100 minutes of video).
- Behind-the-wheel driver training time requirements.
- Driver training routes.
- Make and model of driver training vehicles.
- Drop-off and pickup locations for training sessions.
Check with the driver training school for more information about these policies.
DMV will assist with any complaints that you may have against a DMV-licensed driver training school. Driving School and Traffic Violator School Complaints can be filed online.
For complaints against a public or private secondary school, contact your local school district administration. Additional information may be found on the Department of Education website.
Need something else?
If you’ve never had a driver’s license (DL) in any state or country, you will need to hold a provisional instruction permit for at least six months before you apply for a California DL.
Do you need help studying for your knowledge tests? Here are resources that can help, including driver handbooks, videos, and sample tests.
Have you completed the requirements to take your driving test and get your DL?