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For Texas teens, driver training is crucial. While the classroom instruction is important, nothing prepares you for the experience behind the wheel―other than practicing behind the wheel.

Texas requires that you complete at least 32 hours of classroom instruction and 44 hours of behind the wheel training. You need to be 15 years old and in a formal driver education program, though this can be taught by your parents if they choose.

The in-the-car hours should help you master the following:

  • Accomplishing a basic safety check. Check for anything out of place―like cables dragging on the ground, or mysterious pools of fluid underneath the car that can’t be connected to a spilled soda.
  • Adjusting mirrors so you can see other cars on the road―not your pretty face.
  • Learning the dimensions of your vehicle, preferably in theory rather than by scraping any edge of your vehicle against any portion of anyone else’s.
  • Making safe lane changes. There’s no joke about this one.
  • Making smooth starts and smooth stops.
  • Constantly watching out for the other cars. You may be the safest driver in the world, but it won’t matter if the person in the lane next to you is a maniac.

But in reality, the total hours that are mandated won’t be enough. Whatever your age, as soon as you start wanting to drive, watch other drivers. See what they do. Make it a habit to become aware of other cars around your vehicle (as well as people and animals by the side of the road).