What Is the Process for Getting a School Approved By State Regulating Authorities?

Each state has a governing authority that oversees Driver Education.  The first step is to approach that entity and the designated official that approves applications for new Driver Education schools.  Usually, the department that you contact is your state’s
Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA), Department Of Transportation (DOT), State Highways (SHA) or, in some cases Safety Departments.  A good contact in any event, is the Governor’s Office Of Highway Safety.

What is Required?

All states have an application process for school approval.  Often, it is sent to you and in some cases, you can pick it up at state offices.  It is recommended that you go, introduce yourself and collect the paperwork.

What Is Involved In Making Application to the State?

Because schools work with mostly teenagers, they are heavily regulated.  To be approved all officers must be background inspected and in some cases they must complete a 20-60 hour Driver Education Certification Class.  Below is a sampling of what most states require.

VEHICLE

  • A Vehicle not over 6-8 years old
  • Proper insurance
  • Title in School’s name
  • Safety equipment in the car
  • Teaching equipment in the ca.

CLASSROOM

  • Fire and Zoning Forms
  • Proof of Lease
  • Appropriate Square Footage
  • CD Player, Texts, and Other Materials
  • Office of Appropriate Size

FINANCIAL

  • Surety/Performance Bond
  • General Liability Insurance
  • Vehicle Insurance
  • Application Fee
How Long Does The Approval Process Take?

This will vary by state and by your own level of preparedness.  If you have all that you need and fill out the paperwork correctly the first time, an official can get to you within 30-45 days.  However, in many cases, overloaded personnel can take a couple of months to come out to your site, review and approve your full application.

What Financial Resources Are Available?

Although there is no specific fund to underwrite Driver Education Schools, many “pockets” of funds exist.  Here are a few.

MBE/WBE

  • Main Street Business Loan
  • Community Action Grants (local)
  • Enterprise Zone Grants (National)
  • Empowerment Zone Grant (National)

SBA LOAN

  • Veteran’s Administration (Veterans)

A good source for more information is The Small Business Administration office in your area, or, S.C.O.R.E.  (Senior Counsel Of Retired Businesspeople), or, your local school association, local state delegate, or, MVA/DOT representative.

Who Makes the Laws That Govern Driver Education Schools?

Driver Education Schools are subject to the capricious crosswinds of many political and governmental entities.  It is highly recommended that, you research and make yourself known to the parties involved in setting and changing regulations in the industry.  Some examples of people involved are: State Delegates, Safety and Environmental Matters Committee Chairs, Director, Governor’s Office Of Highway Safety, Head Administrator of Driver Education at MVA/DOT, MVA/DOT Quality Assurance and Approval Representative.

Significantly, there is usually a subsection to state law that governs the actions of a Driver Education School.  In Maryland, by example, schools operate under the
Code Of Maryland Agency Regulations (COMAR).  COMAR covers state businesses from Car Dealers, School Buses, Livery Services, Limo Services, Bars and Taverns, as well as it’s own section covering Driver Education Schools.  It is very important to be thoroughly acquainted with the codes and laws governing your business.

Are There Associations for Schools?

Each state has local associations for schools.  State dependent, you will see higher or lesser involvement and participation.  In Virginia, they have an extremely active and professional association for public and private Driver Education Schools which has an annual conference, speakers and continuing education.  Other states, however, are less organized and involved with only quarterly meeting and occasional newsletters.  It is best, whatever the level that your local association operates at, that you get involved.

Nationally, there are two main associations: The American Driver and Traffic Safety Education Association (ADTSEA http://www.adtsea.org); and the Driving Association of Americans (DSAA http://www.thedsaa.org) .  These both are valuable because they keep you apprised of national trends affecting your business, both in new laws, and in technology and teaching.  Each has regional and national conferences where there are presentations, exhibitors and networking.  With their reach and event frequency, it is likely that an event would come near to you each quarter.

Are There Continuing Education Resources?

Many states have enacted continuing education requirements to maintain licensure for teachers, and in some cases for school owners.  Some states will require you to teach 1-2 classes each year as well.  Check with your state licensure or approval representative for more information.

How Long Is My Business/Teaching License Good For?

A school’s license must be renewed periodically.  The range is from 3-5 years.  There is also a fee from $150-$500.  Many states also charge per classroom location, or per vehicle in use.  A Professional Driver Education Teacher’s license is typically renewed every 1-2 years, at a cost of about $100-150.