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How to Train to Be a Defensive Driving Instructor

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With tens of thousands of traffic fatalities in the United States each year, it’s no wonder that defensive driving instruction has become a more sought-after profession. Not only does society benefit when more drivers cultivate safe driving habits, but so do the men and women who teach these habits. Defensive driving instructors certainly make a difference. Licenses to teach defensive driving are available in many states for a minimal fee and usually require no educational degrees beyond a high school diploma.

Call your state's motor vehicles agency and ask if there is a state-approved defensive-driving instruction program. For example, Virginia, Texas and New York have customized curricula that only certified schools can teach. Ask about the minimum age and education credentials as well as any language proficiency and citizenship requirements.

Ask whether the state issues licenses to drivers with certain types of past or present violations. For example, Virginia will not issue a driving instructor’s license to anyone with a suspended, revoked or canceled license. Virginia also won't license any driver convicted of reckless driving, vehicular manslaughter or drunken driving within five years of applying.

Request and obtain a driver abstract, or your driving record, from the state's motor vehicles agency. This may be done online, through the mail or in person. Make sure your driver history is accurate and clear of violations, felonies and convictions. Pay outstanding fines, if necessary.

Apply for a general driving instructor’s license. Complete state-required basic training in driver safety and traffic laws. For example, California defensive driving instructors must pass tests on the state’s traffic codes, operation of a motor vehicle and ability to teach road safety principles.

Pay the necessary fees. Wait the required length of time and complete the necessary teaching hours in general driver instruction.

Comply with customary background checks. For example, Texas officials want to know about an applicant’s criminal and driving histories. Applications in California must get fingerprinted.

Study the state's driver's manual and pass written exams. Undergo the required physical exams and comply with any requests regarding medical history.

Request a defensive driving trainer’s license application. Prepare documents confirming required training and employment prospects. For example, California requires drivers to supply written statements from certified traffic schools that intend to employ the applicant.

Send the completed application, fees, driver abstract, written test results and sworn statement (if necessary) to the state's motor vehicles agency. Submit copies of the applicant’s high school diploma and general driving instructor’s license.


Michele Vrouvas has been writing professionally since 2007. In addition to articles for online publications, she is a litigation paralegal and has been a reporter for several local newspapers. A former teacher, Vrouvas also worked as a professional cook for five years. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in history from Caldwell College.

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