Car Tips

Mercedes-Benz Driving Academy offers teens extra instruction, honed skills

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Parents looking to save money on car insurance should sign their kids up for driving lessons before they get their licenses. But not all schools are the same. An automaker known for its premium cars has created a premium driving academy.

It's a rite of passage for many 15- and 16-year-olds: driving lessons to obtain a license. All driving schools have to be licensed by the DMV and are required to teach a minimum curriculum of six hours behind the wheel. Then parents are supposed to supervise an additional 50 hours.

"To put that in context, to become a manicurist in the state of California, you need 400 hours of certification," said Mercedes-Benz Driving Academy Director Carolyn Duchene.

Mercedes-Benz has set up shop to offer premium driving instruction after they found that many parents weren't satisfied with the choices available. The driving academy in Los Angeles is the first one in the country.

"It's his safety, and it's my safety as well, and other people's on the road," said Matt Epstein about his son taking the class. "What they offer at this school, I have never seen anything like this before."

Mercedes-Benz says they're not just giving lessons, but coaching for safety through decision-making.

"What we do is we teach them to make decisions from the first time that we're in the car with them, so that when they transition from a student driver to a solo driver, they've already had experience doing that," said Duchene.

The state minimum, which is what most schools teach, is 30 hours either in a classroom or online, then the six hours behind the wheel.

At the Academy it's 15 hours online, 10 hours in the classroom, then 16 hours in the car, including driving at night and on the freeway. And there's an additional five hours of safety modules.

The program isn't cheap at just under $1,400 from start to finish. But considering insurance rates for teenagers, this could be money well spent.

Parents who want the best driving education for their teens can do more than just paying for the right lessons. They need to participate, which means spending 50 hours in the passenger seat while their son or daughter drives.

Mercedes-Benz Academy officials say that's a minimum. Skills really come along after 120 hours.

Jon Epstein's parents chose the Mercedes Academy for him knowing that an older daughter did it the easier way some years ago.

"Didn't really teach her the basics, and she's not as good of a driver as he is already," said Matt Epstein.

Nothing like a younger brother showing you up behind the wheel.

(Copyright ©2014 KABC-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

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