This letter is to all parents who have a teen who plans to drive. 

Iowa requires that all drivers under age 18 must pass a written test, pass a certified driver education class, and have at least 20 hours of driving experience. They may then qualify for a student license (we call it a school permit), or an intermediate license at age 16 if they have had their instructional permit for one year. 

Once a teen has a permit, they should drive everywhere their family goes until they graduate from high school. That will get them closer to the thousand hours that State Farm Insurance says is required to be an experienced driver.

I would like to thank all those parents out there who are diligently driving with their teens, teaching them the basics. Their teens come to us confident, have a lot of success, and enjoy the experience. In the driver’s ed car, students fine-tune their driving skills. This is done with a wide variety of driving experiences. These include residential drives, downtown streets, and rural hills and curves, as well as two- and four-lane highways and big-city driving. 

Compare driving to any of a school’s extracurricular activities. Can you imagine a player or performer on the court, field, or stage in a varsity competition with no experience? For students with little driving experience, driver’s education is very painful. It is humiliating to fail no matter how hard they try, sometimes even putting others in danger. How often would we, as adults, put ourselves in crushing situations where we have little chance for success?

Most teens who die in crashes have not had a lot of driving experience. 

Help your kids get that experience and become safe drivers. If you are uncomfortable getting in the car with them, do you have a spouse, significant other, parent, sibling, or close friend who would be willing to teach them?

Driving a riding lawn mower is a great way for a teen to start out. You will be able to see if they can drive a straight line and make a turn. Otherwise, start driving in a parking lot, then go to the cemetery, and then to a residential area. As the student’s skills improve, increase the difficulty of the task.

Put away your phones, too, because your kids are watching. They will break all the same traffic laws they have witnessed you break as they were growing up. 

Cell phone use while driving is a whole new letter to the editor.

For more driving tips check out my book “Come Drive With Me” on our website www.driversedbill.com 

Bill Mueller

45-year teacher, 15-year

driver’s education instructor