Taking Driver’s Education in America


Learning to Drive

Turning 16 and getting a Driver’s License is like a rite of passage for the American Teenager. In other countries, like Germany, it’s more like a privilege to be able to drive…and it’s expensive! So, Lara, our German Exchange Student, is taking advantage of being in America and saving some big bucks!

Depending on the Exchange Student Company a student is working with, some Foreign Exchange Students can get their driver’s license while they are in America. And some states do not even allow exchange students to get a license because they don’t have a social security number. You may be asking the same thing I asked when I first heard this: “Why do they want to get their license here?” The answer was shocking! It costs as much as $2,000-to-$4,000 to get a driver’s license in other countries… and more work! In Germany, Lara said it is about $2,000.

In Germany… when someone turns 16-1/2, they can start the process.
First, they must take 12 theoretical classes… like lectures on different topics about driving.
Second, they must take 12 driving lessons.
Third, they take the theoretical test.
Fourth, they must pass the theoretical test AND the 12 driving lessons BEFORE they can take the driving test.
But… they must be 17 to take the driving test.
If they don’t pass, they can take more theoretical and driving classes.

When they pass and get their license…and if they are under 18 years old…. they get a “Special License”. It states they must must drive with a parent and that parent is listed on the driver’s license. On their 18th birthday, they can get their license.

For those of you reading this in other countries, it is much easier in America. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or bad thing or if that means American drivers are not good drivers…but it’s definitely worth noting! In America, you must be 15-1/2 years old to get a permit. All you do is study a book about driving signs and laws… and take a test. For 6 months, you can drive with an adult over the age of 21 who is sitting in the passenger seat. At 16, you must pass an actual driving test behind the wheel of a car and you get your license. That’s it!

If you do not attend a driving school, it costs $7 to get a learners permit. It costs just $25 to get a license. A total of $32. That’s a HUGE difference from other countries! And that’s exactly why Exchange Students get their license here.

Keep in mind, Aspect Foundation, the Exchange Company Lara is with, does not allow students to drive while in America. So you may ask, “Then how do they practice?” The answer: Driving School! Yep… those Student Driver cars you see on the road driving very carefully could have an Exchange Student behind the wheel!

In Lara’s case, we took her to Stop ‘N Go driving school, where our son learned how to drive. I wouldn’t get in the car with him but my husband did. And we still thought it best for him to learn from someone else. Plus, if you attend Driver’s Education in Arizona, you can get a discount on insurance…which we all know can be very expensive for teenagers!

So, this past Sunday morning at 7:40am, Lara was in driving school! For $319 she takes an 8 hour class and gets two 3-hour sessions behind the wheel with an instructor. In class, she learned the same things that are in the book but someone was explaining it in more detail. By 3:15pm, she had passed the test with 100% correct! They gave her a paper showing she passed which she will bring to the Department of Motor Vehicles and be given the actual plastic card with her picture on it!

Oh wait… it can’t be THAT easy, can it??? Of course not! Today we went to the DMV and got turned down! Even with her Passport and all the other legal forms we have for her… her parents must sign the application and have a Notary sign and stamp it. And it must be ORIGINAL signatures! We emailed it to her parents tonight but they have to MAIL it back. And trust me… mail from Germany is NOT a 3-day process! It’s more like 10-14 days!

Why is that an issue??? Because Lara must have her permit for 6 months from the time it is issued…. and we’re racing against the clock! Her 16th birthday is May 10. She goes back to Germany June 6th and must take the test before then. So, if she doesn’t get her Permit until December 1, she can’t take the test until June 1. And with little practice behind the wheel… she may not pass the first time. Aspect Foundation does not allow students to drive the Host Family car, even in the final driving lesson, so she will definitely have little practice! Most American Teens get hours and hours behind the wheel with their parents!

And what happens when she gets home? She can trade her American license for a German one. She’s not sure of that means she has to still wait till she’s 17 or 18 to actually drive so we will keep you posted on that… and on her progress! For now, we will just hold our breath till that paper comes in the mail!


NOVEMBER 29 AND THE PAPER CAME IN THE MAIL! It’s now the 30th and Lara got her Permit! She can get her license May 31 or June 1. She leaves for Germany June 2. Whew! That’s cutting it close!!!

One response »

  1. Pingback: A German Instructor for the German girls Driving Lesson « lifewithlara

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