TACOMA – How many years has it been since you had to pass a driver's license test? More importantly… if you HAD to take it today, would you pass? We decided to try it out ourselves, but our mission is twofold: First, to show adults everywhere that perhaps we have lost a few of our skills over the years (just us? No?); and second, to help parents learn the best ways to help make their soon-to-be-driving teens become safe, licensed drivers.
We teamed up with Jeff Westover, a former police officer and now the master driving instructor and owner of Tacoma & Lakewood 911 Driving Schools. He administered both the written and the skills test to us the same way he would if we were newly-driving teens. The verdict?
It's harder than it looks. It took me THREE tries to pass the written. I passed the skills test with an 88% the first try, but it was a close one for me on several skills I had forgotten.
Teens need to pass not one, but three things in order to earn a license in Washington State: an approved driving course, the knowledge test (or "the written"), and the skills test (the driving portion). And, parents, you may be surprised to learn it is no longer the case that you must take these tests at one of the Department of Licensing locations.
"We administer the written and the skills test here at the driving schools," Jeff says. That’s because three years ago, a house bill passed that aimed to reduce the lines at the DOL; that means there are now private driving schools licensed by the state to do the testing.
Back to how hard these tests are: they mean business. You must earn at least an 80% on both the written AND the skills test in order to pass, and Jeff says studying is the make-or-break difference. That, and practice.
It's an especially tough lesson for parents, he says. "They have to let their student practice, that's the biggest thing- just practice, practice, practice. For them, we understand it's sometimes stressful for them, with their own son and daughter in the car, but if they just trust us and let the student employ what we've taught them out on the road, it will come out successful."
And don't price shop. The driving courses, Jeff says, can cost from $300 to $600 dollars, but he reminds parents it's well worth the hours you get in return. "I mean, if you want to save a couple hundred dollars by going to Old Navy instead of Nordstrom, that's fine for a pair of jeans," Jeff points out. "But if you're trying to save a couple hundred bucks on your driving education, that's bad because… the number one killer of teenagers is cars."
That money, in the case of 911 Driving School, includes 35 hours in the classroom, spread out over 15 days for 2 hours and 20 minutes per session. And while that doesn’t change the fact that parents have to shell out money, Jeff says the state does offer some programs that can pay for a student to take the course.
Other tips and helpful hints for parents, from Master Instructor Jeff Westover:
To learn more, click HERE to go to the Washington State Licensing site. For more on the Tacoma or Lakewood 911 Driving School, click HERE.