I started learning how to drive when I was a senior in high school, back in Yugoslavia. I passed the written part of the test in fall, after spending hours studying the laws and analyzing the hypothetical intersections in the driving manual. The adventure began the first time I sat in the car with my driving instructor; the vehicle equipped with the dual controls was a Yugo, and my overweight teacher took about ten minutes to get himself behind his steering wheel. I will never forget driving down the hill in neutral to save gas, stopping to get ice cream every time for forty lessons just to learn how to drive with one hand, taking the car to his friend’s house or a supermarket for a grocery run because we were in the neighborhood.
My driving school was unorthodox and exciting, and when I finished, I was pretty confident I could handle myself with calm and composure and pass the dreaded driving test. Unfortunately, the tests were always scheduled during the week, and once I departed for the University of Belgrade, I returned home only on weekends and holidays. So I kept on riding public transportation throughout my college years, until I found myself in a suburb of Detroit completely void of buses, trams, or trolleys. Several hours behind the wheel with my husband and thirty dollars later, I was a proud owner of a driver’s license, having aced the written test once again.
I have been driving on American streets since I was twenty five, without getting a single ticket. My dad and my sister claim I drive like a grandmother: defensively, always respectful of speed limits and traffic laws. They might be right, and I am just fine with that label. On the other hand, I am not in a hurry to learn how to drive a stick shift and navigate the curvy two-lane roads of my native Serbia, preferring to sit in the passenger seat and look at the scenery I missed.
I had nothing to do with my oldest daughter learning to drive. She took the mandatory driving course, went out to practice with her boyfriend, spent hours trying to maneuver the car between the lines in an effort to master parallel parking, and received her license at sixteen. That does not mean I managed to sleep on the nights I knew she was out driving, even when she was in college. And now I have two teens ready to embark on the road to independence and I know there will be many sleepless nights in my future. To me they are still babies, vulnerable and fragile, innocent and wide-eyed. But I also know that one day soon they will be behind the wheel of a car by themselves, without any fairy dust to protect them from harm.
The least I can do is arm them with knowledge and help them become aware of the world around them. IGottaDrive is an online driving ed course that prepares teens for the written test. I spent hours sitting next to my girls while they navigated the site, read the stories, and answered the questions. We used California Driver’s Ed Course, but courses for Ohio and Florida are also available.
The site is set up like a road trip through the United States. It starts in Los Angeles, weaves through the country, and ends up in Burlington, Vermont. Each stop/chapter focuses on a different topic and offers not only the facts, but the history, trivia, and even anecdotes from real life. It was fascinating to read about Ralph Nader’s efforts to put car safety on the agenda of the law-makers – we take for granted so many things concerning our safety. And I definitely went out and re-adjusted my side mirrors after learning that about 20% of crashes occur as the result of looking over your shoulder.
The history and background stories of each section appealed to me and my geeky offspring, and I heard many chuckles while they were immersed in reading. I like the not-so-serious approach to such a serious matter, knowing that I will not have to force them to continue with the course. There are word plays, jokes, and references to pop-culture interspersed throughout the tutorial. The lessons are short and concise, aimed to maintain the focus of the generation that has the average attention span of a fruit fly. There are facts and statistics, logic puzzles and guessing games, just enough variety to keep the interest up.
There is a quiz after each lesson, and teens earn badges as they move forward on their virtual trip. They can always go back and re-visit a chapter, and they can stop and save their progress without losing their place. Upon finishing the course, there are practice tests similar to the tests they will have to take to obtain their driving permit. And in the end there is a certificate of completion that can be printed and presented at the DMV as proof of taking the course and learning about traffic laws.
Here is an introductory video that explains how to navigate the site, although we did not have any trouble finding our way around. There is also a comprehensive video library that will teach your teen about safety and arm him or her with the knowledge to ace the written test.
I didn’t know what to expect from this online driver’s ed course, but I have to say that I am pleasantly surprised. I am a notorious techno-peasant, but I did not encounter one single snag while maneuvering through the site. I am confident that my girls will pass the test without being overly challenged. I am comforted by the thought that they learned not only about the rules and regulations, but an awful lot about safety. That fact will not make me sleep through the night when I know they are driving, but at least I’ll know they are aware of their obligations and responsibilities that come from having a complete control of the steering wheel.
Click here for a discounted price for the California Driver’s Ed Course from Amazon Local.