California Association for Safety Education

Driver Education Questions and Answers

This information was developed by staff of the Professional Development and Curriculum Support Division, California Department of Education.  Inquiries may be directed to Roxanne Fidler; tel. 916.323.4861; e-mail:

Driver Education

What are the relevant Education Code sections pertaining to Driver Education and how may I access them?
The key Education Code sections are 51220(j), 51220.1, and 51850-51854. These sections may be accessed at California Law (Outside Source)

Is Driver Education required to be offered by school districts?
Yes. Education Code Section 51220(j) states in part that: “The adopted course of study for grades 7-12, inclusive, shall offer courses in the following areas of study . . . (j) Automobile driver education.

Is Driver Education required for high school graduation?While driver education is required to be offered, the local school district governing board may, pursuant to Education Code Section 51225.3, determine if it is a required course for graduation. A driver education elective course may be applied toward meeting minimum graduation credits without requiring driver education for graduation.

May a student be charged for Driver Education classes?
At no time may a student be charged for driver education that is required to be offered by the school district regardless of when and where it is offered. Also, note that several court cases have held that high school students may not be charged for driver training in adult schools where the course is being used to satisfy Education Code Section 51120(j).

When may Driver Education be scheduled?
Driver education should be offered as a 10th grade course since this usually matches most students' licensing age. Many districts are offering driver education instruction along with health education, since some course topics, such as alcohol, drugs, and driver fatigue, are discussed in both courses. Understanding this interrelationship is important since the leading health and safety issue among teens is associated with traffic collisions, the number one killer of teens in the state. The Education Code has several sections providing guidance.

Education Code Section 51851 states: “A course of instruction in automobile driver education shall . . . (B) Provide the opportunity for students to take driver education within the regular school day . . . Additional classes may be offered . . . to accommodate those who have failed or those who cannot enroll in the regular school day program.”

Education Code Section 41912 states in part: “The express purpose of the Legislature is that  . . . this instruction properly belongs in the high school curriculum on a basis having comparable standards of instruction, quality, teacher-pupil ratio and class scheduling as in other courses in the regular curriculum in the regular academic program.”

May a school district contract out for Driver's Training or Education?
School districts may not contract out for Driver Education. For Driver's Training, Education Code Section 41913 states that the governing board of any school district maintaining secondary schools according to sections 41913 to 41919, inclusive, may enter into contracts with approved driver training schools to provide to any eligible enrolled students of the district, the automobile driver training as provided pursuant to section 51852. Section 51852 pertains to behind-the-wheel driver education.

What are the required classroom hours for Driver Education?
A course on instruction in automobile driver education shall be at least two and one-half semester periods and taught by a qualified instructor. A semester period is 30 hours.

May Driver Education be offered in Home Study, Independent Study, or Internet online courses?
Driver Education may only be provided by a qualified instructor.


Driver Training

How many hours of driver training “behind the wheel” instruction are required?
Twelve hours of instruction are required. This consists of six hours of actual driving with a qualified instructor and six hours of observation. Education Code Section 51852 provides other options for meeting this requirement.

Are computer simulated driver training programs acceptable in place of “behind the wheel” instruction?
While the Department of Education has the authority to approve driving simulators, a school district is prohibited by law, and the Department cannot legally allow, the use of driving simulators of any kind in place of behind-the-wheel instruction in any driver training plan included in Education Code section 51852.


Teacher Qualifications

What is required to obtain a Driver Education teaching certificate?
A public school teacher must have either a certificate to teach driver's education or in lieu of a certificate, a waiver issued by the Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CCTC). The certificate course work is 12 units. Only the University California at Riverside is currently offering the certificate program in Driver Education. As a consequence, teachers seeking to teach driver education may obtain a waiver on a case-by-case basis from CCTC. For further information, contact CCTC (Outside Source). Out-of-state “long distance” college or university programs for Driver Education certification are not acceptable. It is highly recommended that CCTC be consulted before embarking on a certification program.

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