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Concerns over Iowa bill that would allow parents to legally teach Driver’s Ed to their children

Published: Apr. 21, 2021 at 10:54 PM CDT
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DUBUQUE, Iowa (KCRG) - A bill that is currently in the Iowa legislature would make it legal for parents to teach their children how to drive without having to take them to driving school.

Kylie Clendenen spent close to $800 putting both of her daughters through driving school in Independence. She said, though, it is something she does not regret.

“As much as I would like to avoid that expense, I really feel like you are taking people’s lives in your hands when you take a car,” she said. “And I really feel like that is something they should have a professional instructor for.”

Chris Chesmore Welsh, who lives in Van Horne, agreed with Clendenen.

“My driving skills are not the best and I would prefer kids to learn from those who have been trained and have the knowledge that is needed to have the kids drive responsibly and safely,” she said. “I did not like paying the $425 for what little instruction time they receive but, compared to me teaching her, it was definitely worth the money.”

And it is not just parents who have concerns about Senate File 546. Driving instructors have also expressed their worries with the bill.

Pete Pearson, who has been teaching Driver’s Ed in the Tri-State area for over 30 years and who owns Pearson’s U Drive Right, said this is something he would rather put the brakes on.

“I ended up surveying the parents and the biggest thing was that parents did not have time because they were both working and, second, sometimes they did not have the nerves of steel as a professional, just like anywhere else you would go to.”

Susie Quinn owns Dubuque Driving Academy. She is also opposed to the piece of legislation.

“I know they are looking for it to be a cost-effective thing for parents, but we are looking at the back end cost with fatalities, violations, and insurance premiums going up and the lives of Iowans,” she said.

Quinn explained current regulations require driving instructors to follow a curriculum, which includes road safety and organ donation. The bill also requires parents to follow that curriculum if they wish to teach their children themselves, but Quinn wonders whether parents will even have the time to do it appropriately.

“We have a lot of parents that are asking us, ‘What should I be doing in this situation? How should I be handling it in this situation?’,” she explained. “What the legislature should really be looking at is trying to regulate how parents and teachers can work together to make safer drivers, not separating us and bring us together.”

For the instructors, this is also about their livelihood, as many of these driving schools are small, locally-owned businesses. If the bill were signed into law, both Quinn and Pearson agreed some parents would most likely decide to teach their teenagers how to drive in order to save some money.

“I employ three people, so what is coming through the door is what is putting food on our table and paychecks, so that will have a little bit of economic impact on us,” she said.

But, at the end of the day, the instructors said safety should be everyone’s priority.

“Driving is a privilege, then a right, and I think we need some direction, quite honestly, and be able to acknowledge and say, ‘This person can drive correctly or not’ to be safe on the streets,” Pearson said.

“Driving experience will get you on the road, but education is going to get you off the road smarter,” Quinn said. “So our job is to make smart educated drivers and so that they are making educated decisions to get themselves off the road quicker and safer.”

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