Hit the road: the low down on Driver’s Ed

What at 15 seemed liberating and thrilling, at 45 feels terrifying…..driver’s ed. My son recently turned 15 and got his learner’s permit (or as it’s called now “Level 1 Graduated License”), uncharted territory for my husband and me, both emotionally and logistically. My not so great memory of being 15 recalls a few classes at school, a 4-page booklet to study and a trip to the DMV to get my permit. Now there are several more layers to getting that piece of plastic in hand. Here is what you need to know to join me in the “terrified passenger” category.

To get a permit your child must:

1 - Be 14 1/2.

You read that right, 14 years and 6 months is when kids can officially begin driver’s ed.

2 - Attend school (public, private, charter, or home school) in Mecklenburg County.

It doesn’t matter where you live, as long as your child attends school in Mecklenburg County.

3 - Register for and complete 30 hours of classroom instruction.

There are two options for this, and then several sub-options. First you need to decide if you will go through CMS or go with a private company.

CMS contracts with Jordan Driving School Charlotte to conduct all classes, on and off the road. There are set schedules and times and most classes are held on CMS high school campuses. The cost if $65.00.

If scheduling or location is an issue, there are private options as well. These are held at private office locations, but offer total flexibility in when your child attends. You work directly with the company to choose class times. The cost varies from $350-$400. Three area options are Helms, Faulkner’s, and Charlotte Area Driving School.

4 - Pass a written test given in class.

5 - Take an eye exam.

Some schools offer a courtesy eye check on-site, while others require you to go to the DMV and get a check. Regardless, the driving instructor provides a form that needs to be signed by the eye examiner. Note, if you head to the DMV for the eye exam, an original birth certificate and original SS card are required. I was told on the phone at the DMV to go to the front desk and ask for an eye exam rather than waiting in the line - the machine is at the desk and the test takes less than 2 minutes to complete.

6 - Complete 6 hours of behind the wheel training with an instructor.

This gets scheduled through the driving school and is generally completed in 3-2 hour sessions.

7 - Obtain ALL documentation

Don’t even think about heading to the DMV until you’ve got everything you need, including:

  • 2 forms of Identification documents (original birth certificate, ss card, official school transcript signed by school, unexpired passport, etc.)
  • Proof of social security (SS card, 1099, W-2, etc.)
  • Driver Education Course Completion Certificate (given to your child by the instructor)
  • Driving Eligibility Certificate (Your child must get this from the main office at school. It is basically a document stating that he or she is in good standing academically and behaviorally at the school. Keep in mind this certificate is only valid for 30 days.)

6 - Head to the DMV with all documents and $20 in hand and be ready to take the test

There are 4 DMV locations in Charlotte you can choose from, and from what I’ve heard they are all equally not fun. Both times I went the line was out the door and they had to limit the number of people in the building due to fire code. For this reason I strongly recommend you have your child schedule an appointment ahead of time. We had an appointment and still had to wait about 20 minutes, but it sure beat waiting all day. To make an appointment call 919-715-700, press option 1, then option3, then option 1. (I know, they don’t make it easy!)

Drivers-to-be are required to take a sign test, a vision test, and a computerized multiple choice test. Mom, dad, or guardian must be present to sign a few forms.

Assuming your child passes all requirements, they’ll snap a photo and give him a paper copy. An official level 1 graduated license will be mailed to you in about 10 days.

7 - Drive you straight to a meditation spot where you can ponder exactly how it is that the tiny baby you were holding yesterday is driving a car today.

For more information, visit the CMS Driver’s Education page or the NC DOT.

Buckle up and be safe, mom!