Rep. Vincent Buys, R-Bellingham, introduced a bill in the 2011 Legislature to allow parents to teach their children how to drive.
It’s a worthy proposal.
True, teaching a child to drive isn’t for everyone. Some parents who’ve tried to oversee their child’s driving say the best decision they ever made and the best money they ever spent was sending their child to a driving school.
But for other parents – those with boatloads of patience and a thorough understanding of driving laws and the do’s and don’ts of driving – serving as their child’s driving instructor could be a rewarding experience.
Under Washington law a person under the age of 18 must meet several conditions to receive a driver’s license. The person must be at least 16 years old, pass a traffic safety education course, have an instruction permit for at least six months, and have 50 hours of supervised driving practice from someone who has been licensed for five years or more.
Teens who are at least 15 years old but less than 151/2 must be enrolled in a traffic safety education course to receive an instruction permit. The traffic safety education course requirement can be met by either completing a course through an approved driver training school or completing a course offered by a high school.
On a person’s 16th birthday and upon completion of the safety course, written and driving tests from the Department of Licensing, the teen can apply for and receive a licence from the Department of Licensing. New drivers are subjected to limits on their graduated license – such as the people they can transport as passengers – until they’ve matured as drivers.
Getting that first driver’s license – a rite of passage for most 16-year-olds – is not an inexpensive proposition. In addition to the fees charged by the Department of Licensing, courses at commercial driving schools run between about $300 and $600, according to DOL statistics. A driving course offered through one of the 30 school districts across the state can range between $360 and $400.
Rep. Buys wants to spare willing parents some of that expense and give them the opportunity to teach their child at home.
Under his original proposal, parents would be able to teach driver’s education to their children who are under 18. The teen’s parent or guardian would be required to purchase a Department of Licensing-approved driver’s education curriculum and pay a small fee to cover the department’s administrative costs, such as reviewing the parent’s driving record.
The parent or guardian would have to be at least 25 years old and have a Washington driver’s license. The instructor could not have a previous conviction for driving under the influence or have committed a traffic infraction within the past three years.
The Christian Homeschool Network says a DOL-approved curriculum could cost between $60 and $150. In his review, Buys estimated the cost of a home-instruction program at $100 to $300. That’s a considerable savings from the top-end driving school.
DiAnna Brannan, director of advocacy and volunteer lobbyist for the homeschool network of Washington, backs the bill and believes it would produce safer drivers.
“After all, parents have a vested interest in the safety of their children out on the road,” she said. Brannan said the organization doesn’t think driving schools are bad; the group just wants another option for driver’s education.
And that’s our thinking, too. Buys said he may have to compromise and narrow the bill to the parents and guardians of home-schooled children.
The fact is, parents are already responsible for overseeing their child’s 50 hours of practice driving. Adding the driving curriculum isn’t that much of a burden. While teaching a child to drive isn’t for every parent, for those parents with the patience and skills to be good instructors, they should have the option to do so.