High School Driver's ED: Teaching unnecessary topics?

When I took that class in high school years ago the instructor for some reason was focused on making sure the Driver’s Ed students knew the difference between the car’s rocker panels and the engine’s rocker arms. The question appeared on every test. & quite a bit of the instruction time was spent on that single subject.

Did you folks have similar experiences in high school driver’s ed, where the instructor seemed hell bent on teaching you something that really isn’t even necessary for a new driver to know?

Some of the topics were good, for example that if you borrow money to buy a car you still have to pay it back, even if you wreck the car and can no longer use it. Many of the students thought this was very unfair.


No. But I did not take HS driver’s Ed, I took mine through AAA (a present from my folks) so I could get my license sooner. We learned the laws and some practical information. My driving instructor concentrated on car control in traffic. My dad covered the real world stuff.


No, we just had behind the wheel. No tests just demonstration. Former fighter pilot, hot head but no nonsense. Did warn about not turning the wheels when stationary due to pump problems. I thought it was funny when he said he had been short all his life, like you were tall once and then shrunk. Us two guys were short but the girl was tall.

Ok he said that I’d be hit by a train some day if I didn’t check the tracks first. But I knew there hadn’t been a train in years on those tracks. Not like my boss thought that ran right into a train on his way to the bank. One of the guys from the restaurant saw it and stopped. His big concern was the money bag and came out all bloody with the bag in hand and gave it to the cook telling him to take care of the money. Guy hits a train and is concerned about the deposit. Great boss though.


Never had drivers ed, but my dad was a great teacher, he grew up driving on the very curvy, hilly and dangerous backwoods Black Mt NC roads, you had to learn quick how to handle a vehicle… lol…

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Took it from a private driving school, class time was focused on what you’d need to know to pass the written exam with 1 on 1 instruction behind the wheel.

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When I had driver’s ed in high school, we had a dedicated room with simulation machines you sat in. They had steering wheel and all the other controls. You watched a movie on a big screen in front of the room and tried to control “your car” accordingly. The system tracked everyone’s responses and provided feedback on how well you did. You stunk? More time on the simulators prior to advancing to the next stage. We spent quite a bit of time on the simulators before ever driving a real car.

They also subjected us to various documentary type films showing very bad outcomes for people as a means to shock you into realizing how serious it was to drive a car.

The next step was driving actual cars around the school lot with cones out to simulate traffic lanes, turning, parallel parking etc. Local car dealers supplied the driver’s ed cars. My first experience with standard transmission, no one wanted to drive the Duster but I was ecstatic about it. I had that all to myself.

Next came road driving with an instructor and three kids per car. Experienced all the different scenarios; rural, city, expressway etc. Practice as much as possible with parents as well.

Then, once we passed, we went to the DMV to take the test.


I have very vague recollections of the Driver Ed class that I took, but I think that if any extraneous info (such as rocker arms vs. rocker panels) was included, I would remember it. I have much stronger recollections of taking the written test in the school auditorium, along with ~800 other students.

I never had a “behind the wheel” DE class because our school had one DE car for well over 3,000 students. How one got to sit in–and to drive–the DE car is a mystery to me, but the high school certified that I had taken and passed the “behind the wheel” course. I suspect that they lied on that point for all of the students who passed the written test.

In any event, I got my actual “behind the wheel” training from my father, early on Sunday mornings.

Fast forward many decades to my position as a HS Counselor, when I was registering and scheduling a new transfer student: The student’s biggest concern was being able to take “under the wheel” :crazy_face: training.

I told her that I was scheduling her for “behind the wheel” training instead, and that we frowned upon our students going “under the wheel”.


As I recall, in order to take drivers ed in HS we had to have our learners permit. Therefore we already knew the rules of the road.
The course focused on developing our driving skills, parallel parking, making left turns (left turn arrows were very rare), merging onto interstate highways.
Nice thing about ours, Oldsmobile dealership provided the cars, new 1966 models, first was a Cutlass Supreme, the a Delta 88, last car was a Toronado.
A month after turning 16, took my behind the wheel test, scored 95%, got my license.

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Never took Driver’s Ed. There was no requirement.

I learned how to drive with my parents. After that I went to Motor Vehicles to take the test, (both written and road test), and they issued me a license.


I had drivers ed in high school. Pretty normal stuff. Teacher was why me because one guy kept stopping for birds. The only driving test I ever had to do with dmv was for a cdl license, 20 some odd years after obtaining my license. DMV set up in high school for the vision test and that was it. I don’t recall if it included a photo or not.

I took drivers ED in school just so I could get my regular license at 16. They just focused on driving. But I did take Auto Tech classes the last 2 years of High school because it was something I was interested in.

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Pretty much the same to @TwinTurbo 's experience, except the ‘driving simulator’ was in temporary trailer they brought to the parking lot. Teacher also taught woodshop, cousin of Pete Rose. The local Buick dealer supplied the cars, and the LeSabre had lots of room for the teacher and 3 kids.

I remember missing a question on a test - ‘Comprehensive insurance will pay if a rock is thrown up by a tire and breaks your windshield, T/F?’ I had no understanding of insurance, and thought that was very unlikely. Little did I know…

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I took my written test for my Learner’s Permit the day I turned 16 and I took and passed road test a week later, earliest I could get it scheduled…

I did not get to take Driver’s Ed until my senior year (1969); only one instructor and a lot of students wanted the course, both because their parents would only let then get a license after the course or, as in my case, for the insurance deduction…

I had already been driving for several years, had my own car and I paid my own “Assigned Risk” insurance (no accidents and no tickets to get points… Just a single teenage male was all it took. My insurance was over $1,200 a year and Minimum Wage then was about $1.25… That $1,200 was equivalent to about $10,500 in today’s dollars.

I took the Driver’s Ed Course because it offered some discount (maybe 5% or so…).
My grandfather taught me early how to brake so it was a nice smooth stop, no jerking, no sudden jolt at the end… So whenever I drive an unfamiliar car for the first time, I always test the brakes, no panic stops, just several slowdowns to get the feel of how far the pedal travels and how hard to press.

Especially since my cars all had unassisted brakes and the Driver’s Ed’s car had power brakes and the first time I drove their car, as I left the parking lot, I slowed the car several times testing the brakes and the instructor asked me what I was doing and when I told him, he told me to stop it, it was bothering him and he told me not to worry, the brakes worked. As we came to the first stop light, I slammed on the brakes, throwing everyone off their seats (there were three other students in the back seat…). The instructor is stammering ready to scream at me and I said, “Hey, you’re right, the brakes work…”

After that, I seldom got to drive the car, he said I did not need the practice and the class work (all car accident horror movies) was all I needed to pass. Since I was only interested in the certificate, I usually skipped class and those other kids, many with only a learner’s permit got more driving time…

Airplane, non-stop San Francisco to NYC, at 35,000 feet above Chicago

Passenger (surprised to see another passenger with a guide dog): How long has that dog been on the plane?

Dog owner: He got on halfway!


The only driving simulator in our neck of the woods was in the video gallery of the Atlantic store in Bloomington. I loved that ride but quickly ran out of quarters while mom was shopping. As I walked by the money changer, I saw the cover was off and tons of quarters in the bin just for the taking. What did I do? I called a clerk and told her, then went to find mom.

Would have loved to have a free simulator.

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The only driving simulator I had a chance to use was at the Seattle World’s Fair, circa 1962. In high school all we had were in-car sessions, instructor and 3 students, one driving. Modified cars with brake pedal on both right & left side. The instructor who did those did a pretty good job, never once mentioned the rocker panels … lol … he paid a lot of attention to how smoothly the student drove. The class sessions featured a lot of blood & gore films, attempting to demo the risks of unsafe driving. I doubt those had much effect.

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This is something like what we had, nothing like ‘Pole Position!’

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1994, we had class once a week and.lessons 2-3x a week in a 1991 or newer Ford Escort, Started on the street downtown which was easierthan when Mom had to paralell park on a steep hill with a stick shift.

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All we need now is a Tragic Death Song… Oh wait, here’s one…

The Girl Group, Shangri-Las, on How the Ed Sullivan Show, singing "Leader of the Pack’ from 1964…

Yeah, that’s a good one. Dead Man’s Curve is another. Forget which band that was.