Teaching Teens to Drive: Driver’s Education Courses in Des Moines

Teaching Teens to Drive: Driver’s Education Courses in Des Moines

Palms sweating, hands gripping tightly to the seat and feet stomping an imaginary brake – oh, the horror of teaching your teen to drive. This adolescent rite of passage can strike terror in the heart of many an otherwise fearless parent. However, unless you see your future as one endless chauffeuring gig, it’s inevitable your child will eventually need to learn to take the wheel.

In Iowa, teenagers aged 14 and older can obtain a “Learner Permit”, allowing them to drive with a licensed driver 21 years of age or older, if they are enrolled in a driver’s education course and can pass both a vision test and a written exam.

So, what are the driving education options in Des Moines? A public-school driver’s education course, a commercial driving school, or a parent taught program are three possible routes.

Public-School Driver’s Education

Unlike the “old” days when a driver’s education course was part of the free, routine curriculum of the public-school system, very few high schools still offer the classes. Locally, Dallas Center – Grimes Community School District still offers a driver’s education course, but its not free. Students can sign up for a Fall, Winter, Spring or Summer session.  The cost is currently $325 for each session for DC-G students. The fee for out-of-district students is $375, and enrollment is limited. Information on the DC-G courses can be found at https://dcgschools.com/drivers-education/.

Parent Taught Driver’s Education

Parent-taught (home-school) driver education was created and authorized by the Iowa legislature for parents that home-school their children. The Parent Instructor will need to submit an application to the Iowa DOT to provide driver’s education.  As part of that approval, parents must indicate, which approved course they will be utilizing. After approval is received from the Iowa DOT to teach the course, course materials can be purchased directly from the course provider.  For additional information on Parent Taught Driver’s Education, visit Iowa Dot’s Website.

Commercial Driving Schools

There are a couple of commercial driving schools in town. Ankeny Community School District, Des Moines Public Schools, Indianola Community School District, Southeast Polk Community School District, West Des Moines Community School District and Waukee Community School District all offer their driver’s education courses, with Street Smarts Drivers Education as the program provider for their districts. Session dates and course prices vary by school district. An additional option for a commercial driving school  is Drive With Cops, which is located in Urbandale, but serves the entire Metro.

Here’s the Types of “Teen” Driver’s Licenses in Iowa:

Iowa has a Graduated Driver License (GDL), meaning that driving privileges for new teen drivers ages 14-17 are gradually phased in as they gain experience. Click the link for the Iowa Driver’s Manual.

Instruction Permit – 14

After turning 14, your teen may apply for an instruction permit. With an instruction permit, teens must complete 30 hours of classroom instruction, plus six hours behind-the-wheel instruction from an accredited driver education school. Your teen must then log a minimum of 20 hours of supervised practice driving, including two hours at night, accompanied by a licensed parent or legal guardian. Until your teen is fully licensed, the number of passengers is limited to the number of seat belts in the vehicle.

After turning 14 years 6 months, teen drivers who have driven under an instruction permit for at least six months may apply for a minor school license (MSL). An MSL allows a holder to drive unsupervised to and from school and select school-related activities between the hours of 5:00 am and 10:00 pm. Applicants must live at least one mile from school and submit an application signed by an authorized school official and a parent or guardian.

Intermediate License – 16

When your teen turns 16 they may apply for an intermediate license. Upon presenting proof of driver education course completion and passing a road test, your teen will be issued an intermediate license.

A teen with an intermediate license may drive alone; however, between the hours of 12:30 and 5:00 am, teens may only drive under the supervision of a licensed parent, guardian, immediate family member over age 21, or designated driver age 25 or older. Exceptions apply for driving between home, work and school. Your child must also log an additional 10 hours of supervised driving, including two hours at night, accompanied by a licensed parent, guardian, immediate family member over age 21, or designated driver age 25 or older. Teens are not allowed to have more than one non-family passenger in the vehicle under age 18 for the first six months, unless this restriction is waived by a parent.

Full License – 17

After turning 17, your teen may apply for a full license as long as the teen has driven conviction-free for at least 12 months. A parent or guardian must sign the application and certify that the applicant has completed the minimum requirements for practice driving.



Is your teen ready to take the wheel?  And, the real question, are YOU ready for them to take it??? 

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