Driver's Education Courses in Oklahoma
Teaching Oklahoma teens to drive.
Palms sweating, hands gripping tightly to the seat and feet stomping an imaginary brake – oh, the horror of teaching your teen to drive. This adolescent rite of passage can strike terror in the heart of many an otherwise fearless parent. However, unless you see your future as one endless chauffeuring gig, it’s inevitable your child will eventually need to learn to take the wheel.
In Oklahoma, teenagers between the ages of 15 and 16 can obtain a Learner Permit, allowing them to drive with a licensed driver 21 years of age or older, if they are enrolled in a driver’s education course and can pass both a vision test and a written exam. Although Oklahoma doesn’t require a driver’s education course in order to get a driver’s license, or even to get a Learner Permit, once a kid has turned 16, successfully completing a course means significant insurance discounts, and most experts would agree, a better driver.
But what are the options? A public school driver’s education course, a commercial driving school, or a “Parent Taught” program are three possible routes.
Unlike the “old” days when a driver’s education course was part of the free, routine curriculum of the public school system, few, if any, high schools still offer the classes. Locally, Tulsa Public Schools no longer offer a driver’s education course. While Union Public School runs two summer sessions for both Union and non-Union district students, the cost is $225, and enrollment is limited. Information on the Union courses can be found at www.unionps.org/drivers-education.
There are a number of commercial driving schools in town. Oklahoma Driving School (ODS) near 31st St. and Sheridan has been in business since 1992. For aspiring young drivers, ODS offers 10 hours of classroom instruction and six hours of drive time with one of its instructors for $380. In addition, for a $40 fee, teens who complete the course can take their driver’s test through ODS with an ODS car from an ODS instructor.
ODS owner Robert Cole sees this as an advantage as the school can teach the specific skills necessary to pass the test. “Since we administer the drive test ourselves, we know the value of certain things like a parallel park, or hill park or what fails them like turning into the wrong lane,” he explained.
Cole stresses the importance of parental involvement. “One of my pet peeves is parents who don’t permit their kids to practice like they should,” he said.
Cole offers some advice. “Try to do it on a daily basis. Drive with them for 15 minutes. That may be all that you can tolerate,” he laughed. “Fifteen minutes, and get used to that. It’s easier to stay focused during that period, too, and kids benefit if they do something every day.” For more information on ODS courses, visit www.oklahomadrivingschool.com.
A “Parent Taught” driver’s education program is one that is taught through correspondence study and is designed for students to work through at home at their own pace. The Oklahoma Department of Public Safety recognizes a number of approved parent-taught driver education providers. AAA’s “Take the Wheel” program is one of them. The cost for AAA members is $94.50 plus tax. Non-members pay $114.50 plus tax for the course materials.
According to Chuck Mai, vice-president of Public Affairs for AAA Oklahoma, the course was a response to the lack of driver’s education programs in the public school system. “It’s very difficult to find a course, and typically, if one is offered, it’s very limited in its capacity to serve,” he explained.
While Mai feels commercial schools are also a good option, he said they can be expensive. “Our course enables parents who have a keen interest in safeguarding the lives of their teens to have the tools they need to teach their teens how to drive from scratch.”
Whether it’s a commercial course, school course or parent-taught program, Mai emphasizes the importance of driver’s education. “It’s essential in our view,” he said. “Just as you wouldn’t send a teenager out into the woods on a hunting trip without some gun safety instruction, we feel, likewise, you need to impress upon novice drivers the importance of doing what they can to save their own life behind the wheel. It’s a very serious matter.”
Mai, like Cole, emphasized the importance of the parental role in this process. “Keep an active interest in your teen’s driving education,” he advised. “That’s really key. If the parents are interested in driving techniques and tricks teens can use to minimize their risks, then everybody comes out a winner.”
While it’s likely impossible to eliminate all the parental anxiety and worry that comes along with this learning process, certainly a qualified driver’s education program can go a long way toward creating safer and more responsible teen drivers.
As a father, Mai is sympathetic. “Having three teens myself, I got through those how-to-drive years without losing any of them, but it was stressful,” he recalled. “We all know the dangers that are lurking out there and teens seem to be oblivious to them.”
For more information on AAA’s course, visit www.ok.aaa.com. For more information on obtaining an Oklahoma Learner Permit and Driver License, visit www.dps.state.ok.us/dls.
- 15-year-olds may drive while receiving instruction from and accompanied by a certified driver instructor.
- 15 ½ year-olds may obtain a Learner Permit, must be receiving instruction or have completed it, must have passed a written driving exam and vision exam and must be accompanied by a licensed driver 21 or older. Without driver education, Learner must be at least 16.
- Intermediate License: Must have had a Learner Permit for at least 6 months, no traffic convictions on driving record, must have passed a driving skills exam and must have had at least 50 hrs (10 at night) of driving training from a licensed driver who is at least 21 and been licensed for two years. If driving unaccompanied, driver may only drive between 5 a.m. – 10 p.m. unless for activities related to school, church or work. Intermediate driver may only have 1 passenger. (see chart of complete details)
- Unrestricted License: Must have an Intermediate License for at least 6 months with not traffic convictions OR must be at least 18, and have passed driving and vision exams. If the driver has not had driver education, driver must have had an Intermediate License for at least 1 year.