Crash course in local driving schools

By Elizabeth Campbell, Production Editor

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Getting a license is an important milestone for teenagers, but before being handed that small plastic rectangle of freedom teens have to engage in a mandatory driver’s education course.

Maryland law states that in order to obtain a driver’s license, applicants must take a Maryland state-approved driver’s course, which requires a minimum of 30 hours of classroom instruction and six hours behind the wheel with an instructor. Where they choose to take that course however is up to them; the state provides over 20 different options in Montgomery County alone to which students can choose from. The most popular at CHS are I Drive Smart (IDS) and Potomac Driving School.

“I knew about both the Potomac Driving School and I Drive Smart from my friends who took Driver’s Ed before I did,” junior Charles Halverson said.

IDS is known for its guarantee that all courses will be taught by current or retired law enforcement officials. This fact appealed to many students like senior Ellis Juan.

“At first it was a little intimidating, though over time I began feel that it was a privilege to have these types of instructors,” Juan said. “They knew how to approach their students in a practical way about teen driving.”

Other students appreciated the experience of these officers, many of whom spend the day in cars patrolling the streets.

“Some spend their whole day watching drivers on the road, so they can share what people are doing wrong and what you need to be careful of,” sophomore Olivia Whitener said. “They know what they’re talking about.”

All of this extra knowledge doesn’t come without a price however. IDS cost $599 for the complete driver’s education course, which includes both the classroom instruction and the behind the wheels.

“I think it was worth the cost,” Whitener said. “Even though it’s more expensive than other places, having the police officers made it more interesting.”

IDS isn’t perfect. Some students may find the long PowerPoint presentations to be hard to follow.

“The thing I didn’t like about IDS was that the PowerPoints and textbook were so wordy and sometimes it was difficult for what they were saying to sink in,” Whitener said.

If having the law enforcement officials as instructors is not as important to students, they can turn to Potomac Driving School. This program costs almost a $100 less than IDS.

According to junior Erik Roberts, he picked Potomac Driving School because “it cost less.”

Roberts had a unique experience during one of his behind-the-wheel sessions. Right as he began to merge on to the highway, his instructor fell asleep.

“The sound of his snoring really soothed me on the highway,” Roberts said.

While most students are not excited for Driver’s Ed classes, it is a mandatory activity and the choice of where students will spend 36 hours of their lives can be a big one. In the end, it seems to come down to the decision between lower cost or a higher quality of teaching.