All Virginia teens under age 19 who wish to earn a driver’s license must take a driver education course which has been approved by the Virginia Board of Education and adheres to the Standards of Learning for driver education. This includes a 36 classroom period “classroom component” and a 14 hour “in-car”/”behind the wheel” component. The two components are often offered separately and may be taken from separate providers.
The purpose of the “in-car” component of the course is to provide 14 hours of in-car instruction to the teen driver: 7 periods of driving and 7 periods of observation. This component may also include the required road skills test for obtaining a driver’s license (see below.)
Possible Options for fulfilling this requirement include:
- A local public school (through part-time enrollment, after school programs, adult education programs, or summer school)
- A local private school (through part-time enrollment or after school programming)
- A driver training school
- Parent-taught instruction IF you are currently homeschooling (see below)
Availability of some of these options may vary depending on location. Public schools and private schools are not required to make driver education courses available to homeschooled students.
School-taught in-car/behind the wheel courses include the road skills test. After you pass the road skills test, your driving instructor is responsible for collecting all required paperwork, awarding a 6-month temporary license, and sending paperwork to the DMV. You will not need to visit the DMV.
Parent-taught in-car/behind the wheel courses do not include the road skills test. Once the component is completed and all other requirements are completed, the student will take the road skills test at the DMV. The DMV will then collect all required paperwork and award a 3-month temporary license.
School-taught instruction typically costs several hundred dollars per student. Parent-taught instruction is free. Contact local schools and programs for specific information on costs, discounts, etc.
You must be at least 15 years and 6 months old and have completed the classroom component of the driver education course.
If you are age 19 or older, you are not legally required to take the in-car/behind the wheel component. However, you may wish to take such a course to prepare for the DMV road skills test.
Teens under age 19 who have already graduated from homeschool are still required to take the in-car/behind the wheel component, but are not allowed to be instructed by a parent. Homeschool graduates may still take the in-car/behind the wheel component through a local public school, private school, or driver training school.
Best Time to Take Course
Before taking this course, you must first:
- Obtain a valid learner’s permit
- Complete the classroom component of driver education
- Complete the 90 minute Partners for Safe Teen Driving component (Northern Virginia residents only)
Many families prefer to complete the in-car/behind the wheel component before undertaking the 45 hours of additional driving. Some driver training schools are now recommending that at least some of the 45 hours be done concurrently with the in-car component.
Parent-Taught In Car/Behind the Wheel Training
Parents who choose to teach their children in-car/behind the wheel training must meet certain qualifications:
- Must hold a valid Virginia driver’s license.
- Must have accumulated no more than six demerit points in the last 12 months.
- Must not have been convicted of driving while intoxicated in the past 11 years, and must not ever have been convicted of voluntary or involuntary manslaughter.
- Must give consent to DMV to review and monitor their driving record during the driver education time period.
- Must maintain proper vehicle insurance.
- Must submit Form HS-1 to the Department of Motor Vehicles, granting consent to DMV to review and monitor the parent’s driving record until the student successfully completes the DMV road skills test. Along with Form HS-1, the parents must also submit proof that their child has completed the classroom component of driver education, as well as a copy of the letter from the school division documenting receipt of the Notice of Intent or Religious Exemption paperwork. Northern Virginia parents must also submit proof of attendance of the Partners for Safe Teen Driving program.
Parents must use an in-car instruction program that is approved by the Virginia Board of Education and is in compliance with the Virginia Standards of Learning. Currently, there is only one such program:
Curriculum Scope and Sequence Modules for Driver Education in Virginia: Module Eleven: Behind the wheel and In-Car Observation
This 43-page curriculum, created by the Virginia Department of Education in cooperation with DMV, is the same as the one used in Virginia public schools and driver training schools, and is free to anyone with internet and printer access. The Module Eleven program requires 7 hours of driving and 7 hours of observing another student driving. If no other student is available, the student may observe the parent driving to fulfill the observational requirement. Students must also complete at least 45 hours of driving time, 15 of which must occur after sunset.
Unlike with the school-taught in-car/behind the wheel courses, parent instructors cannot administer the road skills test to their students. After completing the in-car training and the 45 additional hours of driving time, the student will take the road skills test at their local DMV.