Iowa State Capitol building

(Des Moines) -- Lawmakers in the Iowa House have given approval to a bill that would let teens forgo traditional driver's education courses and have their parents teach them to drive.

By a 59-34 vote this week, the House approved SF546, which would add parent-led instruction as an acceptable form of private driver's ed. Students would be required to complete 30 hours of street or highway driving, including three hours before sunrise and after sunset, as well as instruction regarding substance abuse, railroad crossing safety and pedestrian safety with a parent who has a valid driver's license. Representative Joel Fry -- a Republican from Osceola -- says he taught driver's ed to his children as a home-schooling parent.

"I can tell you the amount of time that I spent with that child in driver's education far outweighs the amount of time I received when I went through driver's education in the school system," said Fry.  "The attention, the detail and the desire that I have to make sure that my child drives safely, because who is going to pay the insurance and liability and all the damages that would occur should they get in an accident? It's me.  It's not the school."

Democratic Representative Sharon Steckman of Mason City opposed the bill. She says parents may avoid certain challenging driving situations when teaching their children and says their vehicles are not equipped with the extra brake that's present for instructors in tradition driver's ed.

"I have a friend that's a driver's education instructor in Mason City, and he has the brake," said Steckman. "He said he likes to take kids out on a gravel road and do some braking that surprises them and see what their reaction would be. All those kinds of things prepare them to be a better defensive driver. I'm not saying parents are bad teachers, I'm just saying they do not have the background and the brake to teach their kids to drive."

In addition to giving parents the choice of educating their children, Fry says the bill would help any student who struggled to find a driver's ed program during COVID-19.

"Many students today are behind in their driver's education because they couldn't get into the school system due to COVID or their schools didn't come back to in-person learning," said Fry.  "So today, we are trying to make it easier, safer and the opportunity exists for parents and their students to be able to obtain their driver's license."

Under current law, students must complete a driver's ed course and then take a written and driving test to get their license. Nationwide, eight states let parents teach their child how to drive prior to receiving a license. The original bill was passed by the Senate, but must be reconsidered after the House attached an amendment.

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