Young people can take driver’s education at the age of 14 1/2 and receive their learner’s permit. They then have six months to accrue 50 more hours of driving with a parent or guardian with 10 of those hours being night driving to obtain their Montana driver’s license.
But the learner’s permit is good for a year if time gets away from them. That comes to about two hours a week behind the wheel, and this is where it is critical that they have parental support.
If they miss this last deadline, then they have to test at the state Department of Motor Vehicles in Missoula, but, they do not have to take driver’s ed again.
“If they end up going to the DMV to complete their education, they get their picture taken, eyes tested, and pay the fee and then they may get their license. Some kids are randomly chosen to test (10% of the class) but that is just to make sure that I am doing my job properly,” Angie Hopwood said with a smile.
Hopwood is in her sixth year of teaching driver’s ed.
“They love coming to class! This is something they want to learn, and you can feel the energy and excitement. I get to know the kids so much better through the car-conversations we have which is the best part of being an instructor,” she said.
To become a certified driver’s education instructor, there is a big commitment to make and an even larger amount of studying and testing.
First, an applicant must have a bachelor’s degree and a teaching certificate with eight credits of driver’s education for teachers.
The extensive in-class and homework takes up a big chunk of time with the culmination of spending the last two weeks in Havre for the final testing and examinations.
Tyler Cheeseman and Debbie Hanson are training to become instructors in Mineral County with Cheeseman handling the St. Regis District and Hanson helping Hopwood in Superior.
Once they are certified, the training consists of on-going education by obtaining four credits every five years.
“I have so much more respect for our deputies having to know and understand all of the traffic laws and violations,” said Hanson. “Our part of learning the regulations and rules is a lot but law enforcement officers have so much more to know.”
Cheeseman, who is also the Trail Rail Run Director, leaves for her two-week Havre stint the moment the last runner crosses the finish line.
Kodi Kelly, who will be a Superior sophomore is enjoying the class.
“I like it. It’s easier than I thought it might be and I’m not nervous for the upcoming tests,” she said.
Twelve students are in the Class of 2021 with final drive testing taking place in Missoula and Plains later this month.
“One advantage our students have by going through our program is that I do all of the paperwork so when they go to the DMV in Missoula, all they need to have done is have their picture taken,” said Hopwood.