As a driving lesson ended with a big splash Thursday afternoon in Des Moines, it’s a reminder driver’s education season is upon us.
“It’s kind of like the teenage American dream to get your driver’s license at 16 and this is what I had to do,” said Ankeny Centennial sophomore, Raven Sippel.
Classes at Drive Tek and Street Smarts—the metro’s most popular schools—double, even triple in size next week.
Drivers will see nearly 100 of these cars out on the roads at once.
“They see that big student driver symbol on the back so they know that they need to stay clear!” laughed Drive Tek driving school instructor, Paul Nelson.
Chances are, you were once there, too; weathering the terrible teen trio of acne, braces and driver’s ed.
But these days, it’s a little different.
“We had friends in our cars,” said Mark Lowe, who directs the Division of Motor Vehicles at the Iowa DOT, “but now we have friends in the car whether they’re in the cars or not because they’re texting us, they’re calling us, those kinds of things.”
Teen drivers make up about three-percent of the driving population but are involved in more than 10% of all accidents. The Iowa DOT says today’s distractions make the state’s graduated licensing program—which includes mandatory driver’s ed–even more important.
“We want students to start out with more limited ranges and more supervised driving and gradually increase where they’re driving and the nature of things that they’re driving in as they gain more experience,” Lowe said.
Chase Edwards paid $350 to take the Drive Tek course, but it’ll earn him his intermediate license. Instructors also recommend that parents spend time in the car with new drivers.
“The main thing is to get them behind the wheel as much as they possibly can,” Nelson said. “The kids who do that are light years ahead of the ones who don’t.”
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says that Iowa has some of the most lenient laws in the country for licensing teen drivers.
It takes into account requirements for learner’s permits and restrictions applied to drivers who’ve earned their intermediate licenses after completing drivers’ ed courses.