Drivers Ed Schools Say State Law Is Making Them Irrelevant

Driver education school officials say state law does not give teenagers enough incentive to take driver's ed.

driver's ed

Photo: sciondriver (flickr)

Teenagers in Indiana must wait until they are 16 years, 6 months old to get a driver's license if they have completed driver's ed.

Driver education school officials are telling state lawmakers their industry is dying as more teenagers bypass driver’s ed when getting their license, but legislators seem reluctant to take action.

Before 2010, Indiana teens who took a driver education course could get their license one month after their 16th birthday. Those who didn’t take a driver’s ed course had to wait five additional months.

Lawmakers shrunk that gap in 2010 and required those with driver’s ed to wait until they were 16 and a half years old, and those without driver’s ed to wait 90 more days.

Tom Zachary, the president of driver education company Drive Zone, says that change is part of a message the state is sending parents that says driver education isn’t important.

“Our rules that we operate by have been changed,” he says. “And now that we do not have a business model that overcomes those rules – I’m just telling you flat out – the industry is dying now.”

Zachary wants teens who don’t take driver’s ed to wait until they are 17-years-old to get their license.

But State Senator Brent Waltz, R-Greenwood, who chairs the Driver Education Study Committee, says he doesn’t see a lot of momentum in the legislature for such a change.

“Generally, I have high confidence that capitalism will prevail, that businesses will find ways to succeed,” he says. “It may sometimes take a reinventing.”

As a part of that reinvention, Waltz says the legislature might give driver education schools greater flexibility to teach defensive driving to adults.

Brandon Smith, IPBS

Brandon Smith, IPBS has previously worked as a reporter and anchor for KBIA Radio in Columbia, MO, and at WSPY Radio in Plano, IL as a show host, reporter, producer and anchor. Brandon graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a Bachelor of Journalism in 2010, with minors in political science and history. He was born and raised in Chicago.

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