'Refresher' driving lessons in or near DC?
June 27, 2008 8:07 AM   Subscribe

DC-area driving lessons: I'm a qualified UK driver, and I want to organize a few hours of "refresher" driving instruction to build confidence on US roads. But I'm finding it strangely difficult to arrange. Suggestions for specific DC-area instructors, or advice on where to look and what to ask for?

As far as I can tell, there isn't any equivalent to the British School of Motoring — a national franchise that might not always have the best instructors but is basically reliable. I've found endless lists of driving schools in DC, MD and VA, of course, but no way of distinguishing between them. Several I emailed didn't respond, and the two I called seemed a bit baffled by the idea of refresher lessons: perhaps I'm using the wrong phrasing? The US system seems to involve a lot of desk-based safety instruction, which I'm pretty sure is not what I need. I'd be very grateful for specific recommendations, or any other thoughts.
posted by game warden to the events rhino to Travel & Transportation around Washington, DC (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Most area driving schools exist to help folks who've gotten too many tickets or a DUI or something. Those folks don't really want to improve their skills, but are going due to a court order or to lower their insurance rates. I think that explains the confusion you're encountering.
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:20 AM on June 27, 2008

LDS Driving School. They're up on 16th and Colorado NW. If you come up. Drop me a line, we'll go to the Red Derby for drinks after.
posted by parmanparman at 8:39 AM on June 27, 2008

5331 Colorado Ave NW, Washington - (202) 291-3130
posted by parmanparman at 8:39 AM on June 27, 2008

you need to call
posted by parmanparman at 8:40 AM on June 27, 2008

Call the British consulate and see what they recommend. Despite their diplomatic immunity (which may not extend to plowing head-on into oncoming traffic anyway) they might have a recommendation.

Additionally, the Dept of State gives these two schools:

Car Guys
Tel: 800-800-4897
Fax: 301-984-5912
Web site: http://www.carguys.com

BSR Inc. - offers driver's training and a variety of accident avoidance classes.
Tel: 304-725-6512
Fax: 304-728-7124
Web site: www.bsr-inc.com

on this page, which isn't aimed at you but might still be helpful.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 8:45 AM on June 27, 2008

Generally speaking, getting a drivers license in the U.S. is much easier than in the U.K.. Many people learn in high school I believe. The standards just aren't as high or rigorous, so unless you're forced to, the concept of what you're after is probably a bit foreign(!) to a lot of people.
posted by idb at 9:30 AM on June 27, 2008

I learned how to drive at EZ Learning in Arlington (granted, I was a teenager) but they have really good instructors, and their course will let you get a good feel for the area. I am not sure if they offer what you specifically want, but if I were you I would rather get back in the driver seat outside of DC and MD because (having lived in DC and VA most of my life) those areas are full of maniacs on the road.
posted by BobbyDigital at 9:40 AM on June 27, 2008

Thank you everyone, this is extremely useful, and also I'm sure I now understand the cause of the confusion. I'll get going on these, and of course, any more thoughts/recommendations most welcome.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 10:17 AM on June 27, 2008

I can second what idb has said. I don't know how much experience you had in the UK, but I found the Texas driving test to be easy to the point of being vaguely insulting. That's after 12+ years in the UK plus a couple of thousand miles on the Continent in France, Italy and Switzerland. Overall, I'd question the need for any extra training, if (and I know that it's a big if) the DC test is of similar difficulty, and you're confident with yourself, your car, your abilities and those of your car.

My recommendation would be to just practice, preferably when it's quiet, in a hire car if need be. Driving in the US is pretty similar to the UK, all in all, although I've found a greater proportion of drivers (in D/FW, at lesat) to be, well, I think the local term would be "assholes" - at least compared to the UK. Note that the concept of flashing your lights to say "go ahead", UK style, isn't practiced here, and I've gotten funnily looks for modulating my speed on freeways to create gaps in the traffic stream to let other drivers on from the ridiculously short entry ramps. That might all be a local thing, though.
posted by Nice Guy Mike at 2:52 PM on June 27, 2008

The DC written test is a breeze, at least. I let my licence lapse so long that I had to take the test recently. There's a test-prep guide on the DC DMV's site. I read through that a couple of times--there are some tricky questions about how close to an intersection you can park, depending on which side of the street you're on, alley speed limits, specific things like that. The actual test was a selection of the questions in the test-prep guide, verbatim, down to the grammatical errors.
posted by MrMoonPie at 3:01 PM on June 27, 2008

To clarify, I'm not planning to take a US test since I don't need to do that in order to rent and drive cars here. It's just that I never drove much in the UK anyway, and am generally freaked out by 12 lane highways and right-hand-side driving. All these tips are brilliant however, including the ones that suggest my freaked-outness may be unwarranted. Thank you all!
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 7:26 AM on June 28, 2008

Considering how relatively untrained us American drivers are you might want a defensive driving course. When we want to go to the next level, this is usually what we take.

Note that the concept of flashing your lights to say "go ahead", UK style, isn't practiced here

In the midwest at least, it is, but not among the general population. Truckers do it all the time -- especially when changing lanes or merging -- and appreciate it when you help them out too. People also flash their lights on the interstate to warn on-coming traffic that a speed trap is coming up... but one driving instructor told me this was actually illegal.
posted by sbutler at 6:36 PM on June 28, 2008

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