The spring session of Drivers Education is rapidly approaching for Billings Public School students; it begins on February 27th and runs through April 26th. The program is not mandatory for students, but it is a requirement for any student who wishes to get a driver's license in Montana before age 16. The class through Billings Public Schools costs $320 and they explained that their comprehensive program,

 ...strives to provide teen drivers with a foundation that will instill safety, caution and a basic understanding of the laws that govern driving. Driving, like any other learned skill takes hours and hours of practice.

Ah yes...  that nerve-wracking practice. Some of it is completed with the Traffic Education instructor, but students are also required to log hours driving with a parent or other adult guardian.

Michael Foth, TSM
Michael Foth, TSM

My kid is signed up. Now what?

I always preferred it when my teen drivers could take driver's ed during the Spring session vs. the summer classes. There is a very good chance we'll still have snow showers and wintery roads in late February/March and I think it's good for them to experience those conditions with an instructor.


Good places for practicing driving.

Most farm kids or those from very rural communities around Montana typically know how to drive by the age of 11. Manual transmissions included. My dad turned us loose in "Old Blue" on the back hay field when we were quite young. For many urban kids, however, driver's education will be their first time behind the wheel.

When students get to the "practice with an adult driver" stage of the class, here are some good spots in or around Billings for behind-the-wheel time with your teen driver.

  • MetraPark. The upper parking lot is a great spot for nervous beginner drivers. 95% of the time the lot is completely empty and big enough to practice accelerating, braking, parking, etc.
  • Molt. Northwest of Billings is where I took one of my kids for her first driving experience. The rural area provides a combination of gravel roads and a quiet, two-lane highway.
  • Shepherd/Worden. The farm country north of Highway 312 out by Huntley offers plenty of paved, generally straight roads with good visibility and minimal blind intersections.
  • Old Highway 10, Laurel to Park City.  The two-lane blacktop roads between Laurel and Park City provide relatively calm driving opportunities.

Yes, having a new driver can be stressful, and nobody likes it when your insurance premium skyrockets when you add a teen driver, but there are upsides. For example, I rarely have to go to the grocery store anymore, because I can just send the kid to the store. And on those rare occasions when my wife and I go out for cocktails, guess who's getting a phone call? The kid!

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