Driver education and driver training (behind-the-wheel) (DE/DT) may be provided by a public or private secondary school or a driving school licensed by the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). The Department of Education is responsible for establishing DE/DT curriculum provided by public and private secondary schools. A licensed driving school operator or owner offering DE/DT must have their curriculum preapproved by DMV before a licensed is issued.
DMV knows that it is important for you to obtain the best DE/DT for your teenager. Good communication between the parent, student, and DE/DT instructors is essential in the process. This brochure answers frequently asked questions and suggests parents ask questions about the licensed driving schools individual business practices.
Teenage drivers get more tickets and are hurt and killed in greater numbers than other drivers. DMV encourages parents to provide students with at least as much training and practice as outlined in the California Driver’s Handbook and our Teen Drivers webpage.
California law requires a person under the age of 18 to complete one of the following classroom driver education and driver training courses:
- 25 hours of classroom instruction (not including breaks or time for meals), home study or Internet training program (must be equivalent to classroom instruction requirements).
- 6 hours of Behind-the-Wheel training.
- 50 hours of supervised driving practice that includes 10 hours of driving during darkness.
Do Driving Schools Provide Videos or Movies as Part of the Driver Education Curriculum?
Yes. Driving schools must provide at least 100 minutes of actual viewing time. The videos or movies must relate to the driver education program and may contain graphic scenes of traffic accidents. If your teenager takes driver education at a secondary school, you will need to contact the school for this information.
How Long Does it Take to Complete a Driver Education (Classroom) Program?
The time it takes to complete a driver education program depends on the number of hours your teenager attends the class or spends studying the educational material. You may request a copy of the school’s program schedule.
Behind-The-Wheel-Training (Driver Training)
Your teenager must complete six hours of actual behind-the-wheel (controlling the vehicle) training that does not exceed two hours per day. Observation time does not count toward the six hours of required training time. If your teenager completes driver training at a secondary school, more hours may be required. Check with the school to find out what is required for the school’s behind-the-wheel program.
The following questions and answers are specific to licensed driving schools. If your teenager completes driver training at a secondary school, contact that school for information on its behind-the-wheel program.
Is More Than One Student Allowed in the Vehicle During a Behind-The-Wheel Training Session?
Yes. However the student who is actually behind-the-wheel and controlling the vehicle is the one who receives training credit. You may request that your teenager receive training alone if you are uncomfortable with having other students in the vehicle.
Can I Request a Male or Female Instructor?
Yes. However each driving school establishes its own policies and may not be able to satisfy your request.
How Long Does it Take to Complete a Behind-The-Wheel Training Program?
The law does not specify the time period between training sessions. Check with the driving school to see how they schedule their training sessions. The time period between training sessions should allow enough time for practicing with your teenager.
May I Ride Along With My Teenager During Behind-The-Wheel Training Sessions?
Although there is no law that prohibits a parent from riding along with their teenager, each driving school establishes its own business practices. Check with the driving school.
Does the Driving School Have a Specific Route to Follow During the Behind-The-Wheel Training Sessions?
Most driving schools do not establish specific training routes. You may ask the school to tell you where your teenager will be driving during the training session.
Are the Instructors Allowed to Take Breaks or Do Personal Business During Behind-The-Wheel Training Sessions?
No. Behind-the-wheel training time should be used for instruction only.
May I Request Specific Drop-off or Pick-up Locations for the Training Sessions?
Each driving school establishes its own business practices. If the school is willing to make arrangements you should be on time when you drop-off and pick-up your teenager.
What Type of Vehicle Will the Driving School Use for Training?
Driving schools do not have to use a certain type of vehicle. The vehicles are equipped with dual controls; an instructor foot brake and an additional rear view mirror. If you have concerns about the school’s training vehicles, you should express those concerns before your teenager’s first lesson.
Do the Training Vehicles Undergo a Safety Inspection?
All behind-the-wheel training vehicles must undergo a yearly inspection. The inspection helps to ensure that the vehicle is in safe and proper mechanical condition.
Are the Training Vehicles Insured?
Yes. Driving schools must maintain the required bodily injury and property damage liability insurance on all training vehicles.
Tips for Selecting a Driving School
All driving school operators and instructors should be professional, courteous, respectful, and emphasize safety and integrity. Driving school personnel should avoid any physical contact with your teenager, except in an emergency.
The following tips and information will assist you in choosing a driving school:
- Check the driving school’s license status on the Occupational License Status Information System database on dmv.ca.gov.
- Check the driving school instructor’s license status by calling DMV at (916) 229-3126.
- Contact your local Better Business Bureau at bbb.org. Driving schools are not required to be a member however, the Better Business Bureau website is a good source of information for customer complaints.
- Compare tuition costs between driving schools and ask if there are any additional fees or charges.
- Always have a clear understanding of all expenses.
- Retain copies of all receipts, contracts, and other school documents.
- Behind-the-wheel training usually occurs after hours. Ask the driving school for a telephone number that can be used in case of an emergency.
- If your teenager’s instructor is not satisfactory, request that another instructor be assigned to train your child.
- Ask about the school’s policy for canceling or rescheduling a behind-the-wheel training session.
These publications are available on the DMV (Internet) website at dmv.ca.gov or by calling 1-800-777-0133.
The Complaint Process
DMV will assist with any complaints that you may have against a DMV-licensed driving school. If you wish to file a complaint, complete a Driving School and Traffic Violator School Complaint form (OL 620) form at dmv.ca.gov.
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 at cde.ca.gov/re/cp/.