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New State Requirement for First Time Drivers License

March 1, 2010

Starting March first - anyone between 18 and 24 who wants to drive in Texas must take a six-hour drivers' education course before they can receive a license.

Tela Mange is the spokes person for the Department of Public Safety.

"We had folks who were waiting until they turned 18 to go take their driver's test to get a driver's license but they weren't taking driver's education," she said.

Mange said although these people passed the DPS driver's test to receive the license they were missing important instruction about the rules of the road.

Nearly 20 percent of Texas car crashes in 2008 involved 18-24-year-olds, according to the state's Transportation division.

"Hopefully is you're taking a class - and paying attention that there will be some things that you learn that will help you be a safer driver," she said.

tate Senator Jeff Wentworth of San Antonio authored the bill and he said the law should make Texas roads safer.

"We learned that the kids that are 16 to 18 who are required to take a drivers education course are actually safer drivers than those who wait until they are after 18 who apply to be licensed," Wentworth said.

When Wentworth was pushing for passage of the bill he said he expected the required class to cost about 35 dollars. However, driver schools across the state are tending to charge a bit more for the class. A random check of schools found prices between 90 and 300 dollars.

Senator Wentworth said free market forces will push the price down.

"The government shouldn't be in the business of setting those prices and we're not. If you and I are running competing drivers ed classes. I'm going to charge less than you do because I want business," he said.

Robert Zaldivar is the owner of the Central Park Drivers School in San Antonio, He's charging 125 dollars for the class. And he says that's as cheap as he can make it.

"We had to have it at about that level because if a student comes in and they're the only ones and they need the course - we're going to run it with just one student and we have to handle the cost of the instructor that teaches the course and everything else so that's why we have it at that price," said Zaldivar.

Raul Reyna is the owner of a Texas Drivers School says the new law is proving to be a boon for his business. He said they've been swamped with calls from people wanting to sign up for the class.

"It's good for our business certainly but by far its good for all Texas drivers because if we have more better informed drivers out there that should help on the safety factor, he said.

And Reyna said he expects the new law to boost his business so much he's going to need to hire additional instructors.

David Martin Davies Texas Public Radio News.



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