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Choosing the right driving school for teens

July 27, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Like most teens, Mariah Gillis couldn't wait to get behind the wheel.

"I wouldn't have to ask my mom to drive me around anymore," she said. "If I wanted to go to the store, I could go to the store. No more bus passes."

Her parents paid for driving school. What she ended up getting was minimal teaching and an earful of drama.

"While I was driving, he was pretty much talking to me about everything that was going wrong with the business," Gillis said.

Gillis and her parents aren't the only ones disappointed by drivers' education. The Better Business Bureau says it's seen a huge spike in complaints.

"The nature of these complaints surround high pressure sales tactics, lack of show - so they tell you they're going to show up and practice driving with you and they do not show up," said Paula Fleming of the BBB.

Paul Greaney is a school owner and president of a state driving association. He says he's heard the complaints, too.

"I'd say in the past month I've received three or four calls from people who have gone through other driving schools, have done the classroom and then not been able to do any road lessons for months," he said.

Greaney points out just how critical it is to make the right choice in instructors. He said it could be the difference between life and death.

The BBB has a list of questions to ask and tips on how to make sure you don't go down the wrong road with a bad school.

"Who are the people who are taking care of your children? How do they do background checks? Very important, and people don't often think of that," Fleming said.

Gillis says she's a great driver now thanks to help from her parents. She and her mother both say it's important to inquire about driving schools.

"Look it up and do your research before you pay your money to do it," the teen said.

Mercedes-Benz thinks there may be a market for a national chain of comprehensive driving schools from a trusted name. They're betting that the brand equity of Mercedes will play well with concerned parents of young drivers.

Their Los Angeles school will open in the fall.


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