With more than 71,000 Louisiana drivers obtaining a learner’s permit or first time license each year, the Office of Motor Vehicles is urging citizens to ensure their local driver education provider is properly certified and licensed through the State of Louisiana – a step that is now required by law.
Elizabeth Hollingsworth, owner of Lucky Brake Driving Academy LLC, says students and instructors are required to know and do the same things.
“We have to go through the same things the kids do,” she said. “We have to take the driver’s education class under a school that is already open. We have to do the whole thing – the classroom portion and the behind-the-wheel training.”
But that’s where the similarities stop.
“It took me about six months to do the curriculum and take the tests and then to be approved by the state,” Hollingsworth said. “Then, we are also required to have a million dollars in liability insurance and a $40,000 bond.”
Continuing education is part of the process of being a certified trainer.
“We have to do two classes each year to stay current,” she said. “Of course, there are background checks through state police since we’re working with children.”
Currently, 187 licensed driver education providers across the state meet the criteria to be officially recognized by the OMV Training and Certification Unit.
It’s a process that has changed since the time when high schools were the only avenue to driver’s education for the teenager who wants to borrow dad’s car.
“You have to spend eight hours in the car with the driver and it can only be one student at a time,” Hollingsworth said. “You can’t count riding time as driving time.”
Age of the student doesn’t matter.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re 15, 25 or 55, the same rules apply,” she said. “My oldest student has been 62, so far. They have to go through the classes as a first-time driver would, no matter the age.”
Certified schools such as Lucky Brake can give the final exam, but students are required to go to the OMV to take the eye exam and be issued their permit or license.
Motor Vehicle Commissioner Stephen Campbell says the Louisiana OMV recognizes “the importance of both proper driver education and parental involvement in the licensing process to protect young drivers and reduce the number of teen serious injury and fatal crashes across our state.”
The state office has published the Driver Education Information page on its website outlining the driver education process and requirements.
“Driver education providers serve as the first line of instruction and influence to our new drivers making the licensing requirement vitally important,” Campbell said. “We urge all novice and teen drivers to take full advantage of the online resources to ensure their educators are properly licensed and qualified to shape them into educated and safe drivers.”
In addition to the newly implemented online resources, an innovative partnership between the Louisiana Office of Motor Vehicles and State Farm was announced this past December establishing the Parent’s Supervised Driving Program in OMV offices statewide.
“Parents are required now to do a certain number of hours of driving with their students,” Hollingsworth said.
As part of the program, parents of teens seeking permits will receive a free guide comprised with information and lessons on driving basics, parental pointers, an explanation of the Graduated Driver’s License Program, and pre-licensing qualifications.
A link to the OMV Certified Driving School verification page and the Driver Education Information page can be found at www.press-herald.com