What Maryland Teens Need to Know About Learning to Drive

What Maryland Teens Need to Know About Learning to Drive
D.C. driving school

D.C. driving school

Teen drivers today are likely familiar with the phrase "YOLO." But Maryland driving instructors and officials hope to give a new, deeper meaning to the concept "You Only Live Once."

Montgomery County officials hope to cut down on the number of Maryland pedestrian crashes involving distracted teens with the new YOLO campaign geared at local high school students. The driving education campaign comes two years after a car fatally struck a Germantown, Maryland, teen on her way to class at Seneca Valley High School.

The campaign wants to remind students and their teenage friends that driving or crossing streets while texting or talking on cell phones "could mean the difference between life and death," says Montgomery County Executive Isiah Legget.

This is the latest move from officials throughout Maryland, who are enacting tougher teen driving laws and standards. Combined with advancements in technology, the laws may make it complicated for teens just learning to drive. That's why picking the right D.C.-area driver's education program can be so important.

“People come to us because we are so safety-oriented,” says Patrick May of the highly rated I Drive Smart in Rockville, Maryland. “We were focusing on safety before the legislators.”

What age is a teen ready to drive?

Auto accidents are the leading cause of death for teens, so it's crucial that parents consider carefully if a teen is ready to drive.

Allstate, a major insurance provider, says parents wondering if their 15- to 17-year-old is ready to drive should factor in the child's behavior and judgment at both home and school.

May says most of his clients start at about age 15, but parents should decide what's the right age for each child. “There’s a lot that goes into that decision,” he says.

RELATED: Driver education helps teens stay safe behind the wheel

Choosing the best driving school

Once parent decide a teen is ready to begin driver's education, it's important to make a careful decision about how to proceed with actual driving instruction and finding a driving school.

Driver's ed programs differ, as do the backgrounds of driving instructors. I Drive Smart, for example, only employees instructors who are either active duty or retired police officers. They charge $600 for the complete program of classroom and road instruction. That includes 30 hours of classroom instruction and six hours of in-car training driving with an instructor. The driving lessons can be taken close together or spaced out over the span of up to two years. For those needing only road experience, the cost is $450.

“What they choose and when they take it is all up to the clients,” May says. “You can pick and choose your courses and when you want to to take them.”

That comes in handy these days when many students are overbooked most of the school year.

RELATED: 5 tips to help teens become better drivers

Teen driver laws vary from Maryland to Virginia and D.C.

Even before a teen begins driving instruction, parents should know their state's requirements and restrictions regarding teen driver's licenses. It also helps to have an idea of the type of car your teen will be driving.

Washington, D.C.; Maryland and Virginia all have different teen driver requirements, so students living just a few miles apart could have different rules. Although Maryland and Virginia laws are similar, May says the District has some “pretty low hurdles” when it comes to eligibility to drive.

“But we go so far beyond just the laws in any specific jurisdiction,” May says.

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