The Driver Education Process with I Drive Smart and the Outline of the Virginia State Requirements
The following steps and requirements must be followed to obtain a Virginia State Driver's License. Listed below is how a student will progress through I Drive Smart to meet the Virginia State Regulations. Please take the time to carefully read all of the information below as included in the outlined steps are many of the frequently asked questions with associated links that will completely inform a student about the State mandated process and working with
I Drive Smart.
Q: Who is required to take the Virginia State Driver Education Program?
A: Any individual under the age of eighteen must take driver's education in Virginia. If you are eighteen or older, see this link. Students can start the in-class at any age.
Q: How old do I have to be to take driver education?
A: You can sign up and take the classroom portion of our driver-education program at any age. You do not need a learner's permit or license to take the classroom training. You are able to sit for the Learner's Permit test at age 15 years and 6 months. The student can take the permit test without ever having taken the classroom training, which will include some helpful information for the permit test but which IS NOT designed for the permit test itself. The Virginia DMV recommends that you review the Virginia Driver's Manual (https://www.dmv.virginia.gov/drivers/#manual.asp) and take multiple rounds of the online practice tests offered by the DMV (https://www.dmv.virginia.gov/dmv-manuals/#/sections/manual/1). You do need a valid learner's permit or license in order to train with us (or anyone else) in a vehicle. For those who take the classroom training and in-car training with us, we recommend that you complete the classroom training first, if possible, since the knowledge-based training is an important foundation for behind-the-wheel training. We have no involvement in the learner's permit test as this is administered by the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
Q: Do I need to have a Learner's Permit to take driver education?
A: No. There is no minimum requirement to begin the driver education classroom training. You do not need a learner's permit to take the class. In fact, many of our students complete the entire 30 hours of classroom instruction prior to sitting for the learner's permit test. While you are able to take the classroom training at any age, you must be at least 15 years and 6 months to sit for the Virginia permit test. To prepare for the Virginia Learner's Permit Test, the state DMV recommends that you review the Virginia Driver's Manual (https://www.dmv.virginia.gov/drivers/#manual.asp) and take multiple rounds of the online practice tests offered by the DMV (https://www.dmv.virginia.gov/dmv-manuals/#/sections/manual/1). We have no involvement in the learner's permit test as this is administered by the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
Q: I am under age eighteen, and I wish to purchase and complete the Virginia State-Required Driver Education Program. What is the process?
A: To purchase and register for a Full Driver Education Class Package that includes in-class and in-car training, please follow the below steps:
- Create a User Account. Sign-in to your User Account each time you visit our site!
- Once logged into your User Account, view our Current Schedules page to select and purchase the desired in-class training session. Note: Changes to an in-class session are no problem after a purchase; plus, if a student has to miss an in-class session during a class series, we have a very flexible make-up policy.
- After your in-class purchase is complete, you will see loaded into your User Account your in-class session with the schedule.
- You will also see the 7 behind-the-wheel sessions included in your package.
- In order to start scheduling your in-car training, you must meet and complete the following steps:
Q: What if I miss a classroom training session?
A: Students are permitted under DMV guidelines to make up a missed class within a reasonable amount of time. If you miss an in-class session, you can log into your account and schedule a makeup session (choosing a location, date, and time that works best for you).
- Complete Unit 1 of the in-class training.
- Possess a valid Virginia Learner's Permit.
- Enter your Learner's Permit number into your User Account info section where indicated.
- Provide I Drive Smart with a copy of the front of your learner's permit. See our SmartDocs information page on how to do this.
- Fully review the In-Car Training Policies Page to understand the scheduling process and all policies for training. The state of Virginia limits training to no more than 200 minutes of classroom training, whether in a physical classroom or online, per day. For in-car training, each session must be scheduled on separate days and a student may not train behind-the-wheel more than one session per day.
We appreciate if you try to schedule make-up sessions prior to the class starting so that the instructor has an accurate roster for the class being missed and to open the seat for another student.
You can reschedule into any class, as long as there is still seating capacity. Here are the steps to change or customize your class schedule:
1. Log into your account.
2. If you wish to change an entire schedule, you can do this prior to the first unit starting by clicking on the Change button that shows above the schedule grid and picking a new class schedule from the next screen. This button disappears once the session for which you are scheduled starts.
3. If you wish to change a single class, find the class unit you wish to reschedule and click on the Status/Reschedule icon in the column to the right labeled Status/Reschedule.
a. This takes you to a page showing all future class options. The system will block you from scheduling two units on the same date (in which case you will see the word “conflict”).
4. Pick the location, date, and time that work for you and choose “Select.” You are able to makeup at any open class. There is no charge for this change unless it is into a class that has a higher location fee than you originally paid, in which case there is a $5 fee.
5. Repeat, if necessary, to customize any class desired.
Q: What is the policy for inclement weather?
A: Our inclement weather policy starts with this basic premise: I Drive Smart will not put students into dangerous situations. If the weather conditions make it unsafe to drive, we will cancel the training. That said, we will not cancel training on the mere threat of bad weather or if there is a small amount of precipitation. We will only cancel if the conditions create a hazardous situation for training.
Our decisions related to inclement weather can always be easily found from any page on our website using the button/link in the upper-left portion of the screen called "Inclement Weather Updates." We will update this page whenever weather conditions warrant, so it is the first place to look if you have any questions. After updating our Inclement Weather page, we will next blast emails to those affected, to the best of our abilities. However, since our office can sometimes be affected by the very weather creating the impact, please do not rely on personal emails or phone calls. Simply check out the Inclement Weather page if you ever have any questions about the status of training.
General Inclement Weather Policy
I Drive Smart will not put students into dangerous situations.
In-class training sessions follow the relevant public school system's policy (by city/county) for emergency closings and cancellations. If the location operates on an independent policy, we will follow that policy. If the location is closed (or closes early), classes after this point will be closed. If schools are delayed, we typically will hold our classes as long as the schools allow for this. Cancelled classes(s) will be re-scheduled by I Drive Smart within a reasonable amount of time, often by simply adding another day to the schedule according to the class sequence pattern (e.g., by adding a Monday to a Mon-Fri session or a Tuesday to a Tue-Thu session). Most often, if the class session has already started, we move the postponed class to occur prior to Unit 9, producing the least disruption for those doing makeup classes.
Behind-the-wheel sessions are generally held rain or shine. However, if weather conditions warrant (i.e., snow or ice that make training risky), we will cancel training for the safety of our clients. We will rarely cancel due to rain or winds, unless the conditions are very severe. We look at less-than-ideal weather as presenting an opportunity for the client to train in adverse conditions with the safety of a professional instructor and a second, safety brake.
Q: How should I go about scheduling my in-car training? That is, what is the recommended approach?
A: We receive this question in many forms, whether from clients who have purchased the State-Required Behind-the-Wheel package (consisting of seven sessions) or from those who have purchased a package of private supplemental behind-the-wheel sessions. In either case, we know that a student will get the most out of our program if he or she has time to practice between the sessions, implementing the suggestions provided by the instructor. While we do not have a minimum requirement prior to training with us, it is very beneficial for the student to have some prior experience behind-the-wheel. We strongly advise clients to conduct baseline training to provide the student driver with some level of comfort and skill in the basic operation of the vehicle (shifting, steering, accelerating, braking, and reversing). The best approach is often to start on an empty parking lot for an hour or two and then graduate to quiet side streets without traffic.
For an inexperienced driver, our training should be in collaboration with private practice and guidance by the supervising driver. Providing some spacing between sessions allows the student time to integrate the coaching that we have provided with the guided instruction from a supervising driver (whether or not more time is needed for "logging" of hours). If you are working with us toward obtaining a license, please do not consider our training as something to "get out of the way." Rather, we advise clients to think of us as a partner in mastering a very complex skill where mistakes can be very dangerous and costly. For these reasons, while each client is unique, we generally recommend that clients spread out their lessons with us, allowing critical time in between for the student to practice. We generally do not recommend conducting more than 2-3 lessons in a week. One approach that works well for many clients is to train relatively early in the process (for a baseline), train some more mid-way through your logging of hours, and train again closer to the time that you wish to conduct the final Road Skills Test. We do not require any minimum training prior to the first in-car session, but we advise clients to have at least some practice, ideally with some residential road experience, so that the student can get more training in the first session than very basic training while on a parking lot. The Eligibility Date (nine months after issuance of the learner's permit) still determines the earliest date that someone can become fully licensed, so there is no advantage to speeding up the process of completion with us.
Two-Party Training (Toward Licensing): [This paragraph does not apply to Supplemental training since Supplemental Behind-the-Wheel sessions are conducted one-on-one and do not count toward the state requirement for licensing.] For those who are receiving in-car training toward the licensing requirement in Virginia, each session must be scheduled with a partner (two-party training) to comply with the driving + observation requirement. Our system automatically handles this by checking to ensure that we have two students seated in the session 72 hours prior to the session start time. If the car shows two students at that point, the session becomes a commitment and will run. It cannot be canceled at that point. If the system does not show two people scheduled three days prior to the session start, the session will automatically be canceled. The appointment will immediately be removed from the client's schedule, and we will send an automated email to all email addresses on file notifying the client that the session canceled due to the lack of a second party willing to train in that session.
When it comes to scheduling training, we have the following general recommendations:
Q. How do I cancel a scheduled behind-the-wheel session?
A: Students can cancel an in-car session at any point up until it is 72 hours prior to the session start time. For example, if you are scheduled for an in-car session on a Tuesday at 3:30 pm, you can cancel this session through Saturday 3:29 pm. Once the clock hits this 72-hour mark prior to the session start, the session is committed and cannot be canceled. We have this strict policy because our instructors have committed their own schedules and are required to be on-site for the session start. Because we have a stringent cancellation policy, please be very careful when scheduling your drive time. It is best to schedule each training session one session at a time rather than all at once. This will help to avoid missed sessions. We also send a courtesy reminder email five-days prior and one-day prior to the session date, but the best way to know your schedule is to visit your account which will always display your live schedule. Sessions do not expire, except that all sessions must be scheduled within two years of the purchase date.
- For those who are receiving in-car training toward the licensing requirement in Virginia, each session must be scheduled with a partner (two-party training) to comply with the driving + observation requirement. If you see a session that works well for you in a desired time frame, jump on it since it may disappear if someone else schedules it before you do. Keep in mind that sessions become commitments that cannot be canceled once you are 72 hours prior to the session start time.
- The sessions that book most quickly and are most desired tend to be:
- Summer sessions since this is the highest-demand period for training
- Weekends and holidays because these tend to be the most-available times for busy parents and students
- Afternoons just after school completes as many students like to train directly from their schools after the school day
- Evenings since these sessions sometimes fit best for working families and for students with after-school activities
- If you are scheduling sessions toward licensing and your desire is to schedule a session that runs, you can increase the likelihood by joining a session showing one seat, meaning that there is already a partner in the car. This session will run unless that other student chooses to cancel prior to the 72-hour cancellation window.
- If you are driven more by convenience and scheduling, you might jump into an empty car (showing two seats). Just be aware that another student must see this session as desirable and fitting his or her schedule. This means that your chances of a partner joining increase the longer the session is visible. If you are first into the car four days before a session, it will only be visible for 24 hours. If you join an empty car 14 days prior, the session will show for another partner to join for 11 days. If no one joins your session, it will automatically cancel 72 hours prior to the session start, and you will receive a cancellation email.
- Sessions that occur when most high-school students can train (weekends, after school, and evenings) are much more likely to be partnered than sessions that run during the normal school day. For example, if you jump into a 1 pm weekday session on a school day, the chances are much higher that no one joins the session to partner, which would result in the session automatically canceling.
- Monitor your schedule. As the date grows closer, you might discover that the session is missing a partner and might look to change into a session showing a ready partner.
- Be very careful not to schedule too many sessions too close together for an inexperienced driver. Since our sessions lock in at 72-hours prior to the session start, you do not want to schedule multiple sessions in multiple sequential days since the feedback might include a need for heavier practice before coming back for another session. The back-to-back scheduling may create a situation in which you are within the 72-hour window for one or more sessions, meaning that they cannot be canceled. It is much better to have a buffer of time between sessions for some practice.
- Be mindful of the heavy seasonality we see in scheduling in-car training, in which demand for this training spikes in the first few weeks after school releases (June through early July) and also from roughly mid-August through the end of September. We annually see the number of sessions scheduled per active student increase four- or five-fold above normal levels during these periods that surround the school year. While we go to extremes to add extra sessions from our base of instructors, we cannot possibly expand training available by 4-5X from our established instructor base. This produces a predictable scarcity of sessions during these busy time periods, meaning that most of these sessions go to clients who book them 4-6 weeks prior to the training date. Please factor this reduced session inventory into your planning by trying to complete some of your sessions outside of these peak periods. If you wish to schedule during these heavy-demand periods, you will need to book sessions further in advance, be willing to drive further, and/or actively monitor "last-minute openings" that become available 1-2 days prior to the session.
Please Note: A client is able to cancel a session directly through his or her account 24 hours per day by clicking the "Unreserve" link and confirming the cancellation. A successful cancellation will be reflected immediately in the user account on the My Account page. If you still see the session showing on the My Account page, this means that the session is still live (not canceled). Our office hours are Monday through Friday from 9:00 am to 4:30 pm EST. If you call or email outside of these hours to cancel a session, no action will be taken by us until our office is next open. This means that any effort to cancel a session with support from our office must occur during business hours and outside of the 72-hour window. An email sent to cancel on Friday at 4:35 pm EST will not result in action until Monday at 9:00 am EST. If Monday at 9:00 am EST falls within the 72-hour window, the session cannot be canceled even if the email or call had occurred outside of the 72-hour window. Our policy requires instructors to remain on-site for 15 minutes for a student who may be lost or late. We cannot wait longer as this affects another student.
Q: I am under the age of eighteen and I have already completed my in-class training requirement and wish to purchase just the in-car training.
A: To purchase only the State Required In-Car Training please follow the below steps:
Q. Do I need to attend the 90-Minute Parent-Teen Safety presentation?
A. There is not a quick answer to this, so please read this carefully (if it applied):
- Create a User Account.
- Be sure to sign-in each time you visit our site!
- Once you have created your User Account, go to the Behind-the-Wheel Package Page and review the information.
- Scroll to the bottom of that page and click on the Purchase Behind-The-Wheel Package link which will initiate the purchase process.
- Once you have completed the purchase, 7 unreserved in-car training sessions will be loaded into your User Account for individual scheduling on-line.
- Enter your learner's permit number into your User Account info section where indicated (by clicking the Edit Info link in the left menu).
- Provide I Drive Smart with a copy of your learner's permit. See our SmartDocs information page on how to do this.
- Provide I Drive Smart with your In-class Completion verification document from a public or private high school, another driving school or a Virginia approved on-line course. See our SmartDocs information page for more detail on these required forms and how to provide to our office.
- Find a "Buddy" through your User Account. Learn about the requirement to train with a "Buddy" by visiting the "Buddy System" Page.
- Fully review the In-car Training Policies Page to understand the scheduling process and all policies for the in-car training.
Q: What is the Graduated Licensing Program?
A: The program requires novice drivers to gain more driving experience with a supervising driver and gradually move up through the licensing process until full license status is achieved. Under the graduated licensing system, non-commercial license applicants, who have never held a driver's license, must progress through three licensing levels:
- The 90-Minute Parent-Teen Safety presentation is mandatory for those under age 19 who wish to obtain a Virginia license and who live in District 8 (Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William counties and the cities of Alexandria, Fairfax, Manassas, and Manassas Park).
- The Parent-Teen session is not mandatory if you are over age 18 or do not live in District 8.
- Most of our clients in District 8 attend public schools and meet this mandated requirement through a session put on by the school that they attend. They can also meet this requirement by attending this session with another provider as we place no restrictions on our clients receiving this presentation elsewhere.
- We offer the presentation to our clients and the broader community as a service. For clients who have created an account, we provide a link to the Parent-Teen sessions at the top of the client account for convenience in scheduling for those for whom the need still applies. A client need not attend the Parent-Teen session with us if the client has already met, or plans to meet, this obligation elsewhere. Similarly, if the client is age 19 or older or does not live in District 8, this presentation is not mandated by the state.
- We do not document attendance at our Parent-Teen sessions, but the parent and student certify attendance via our Virginia Contract and when signing the final Virginia Driver Training Certificate.
Level 1 = Learner's permit (16 years)
Level 2 = Provisional license (
after completing Driver Education and after passing the driving test)
Level 3 = Full license
Q: I have been trying to print the forms for four days from three different computers and if I am in Microsoft Explorer it kicks me out; if I use Firefox, it says to wait (forever) for the form to download. Please advise.
A: We are sorry for your experience and share in your frustration. Occasionally, Adobe’s software has glitches in certain browsers, and this is especially a problem for people on the Apple/Macintosh platform. If you are having problems seeing the forms to print them out, there is a potential work-around solution to address your issue. Instead of trying to view the document through the browser, try to download the file to your computer. Make sure to remember where on your hard drive you choose to save the file so that you can find it later. Once downloaded, you should be able to open the PDF file with Adobe Reader software (no browser involved at this point), view the information, and print it. please follow the steps listed below:
In Firefox, choose Tools > Options
- In the Options dialog, click Applications.
- In the Applications tab, type PDF in the search field.
- For Portable Document Format (PDF) content type in the search result, select Use Adobe Acrobat (in Firefox) from the Action drop-down list.
- If you see a button in the upper-right corner called “Open with a Different Viewer,” click on this button.
- Click OK.
- Restart Firefox.â€‹
- In Chrome, go to chrome://plugins/.
- Click Disable under Chrome PDF Viewer, and click Enable under Adobe PDF Plug-In.
A third way to try to download and save the file is to use the right button on the mouse and click somewhere on the page that is not displaying, then choose “Save Page As…”. This should also launch the dialog box allowing you to save the file. A screen shot below shows the menu that should pop up when you right click on the screen area where the document should be displaying:
- If you see a button in the upper-right corner called “Open with a Different Viewer,” click on this button.
- Clicking the button should launch the dialog box below, permitting you to Save File to your computer (please note the location for later retrieval):
- If you do not see the “Open with a Different Viewer” button, you may see an icon in the upper right section with an image of an icon with an error on it. It should look like this:
Clicking on this “Download” icon is another way to launch the dialog box allowing you to save the file.
While Adobe promised that they will fix the “browser bug,” we can’t just wait for them to solve it, so we are hoping that these instructions will address the challenges that you have been experiencing. If you continue to have problems downloading your form, please let us know. Good luck, and thank you for choosing I Drive Smart!
Q: What is the final process for a student to receive a Temporary License in Virginia?
A: After the student completes the final Road Skills Test (which we administer during the seventh in-car training session), our Instructor will post into our system the score and the results of the test within 24 hours. If the student has passed this test, the system will enable several electronic forms to be "E-Certified" (that is, electronically-signed) by the Client through the OnLine Forms section of the Account. The state mandates that these forms be authorized by the Client. If the Client has not E-Certified these required forms within 72 hours, as a means to expedite this process, the Client gives permission for the automatic certification of these forms by I Drive Smart.
For clients who are under age 18, the parent or guardian of the client must E-Certify two statements on the account, which result in signatures on the licensing packet:
Once the grades have been posted into our system and all required forms have been E-Certified, we will have the records in place needed in order to issue the "licensing packet" to the Client address on record.
- 45-Hour Driving Log
- 90-Minute Parent-Teen Safety Presentation Attendance
This licensing packet includes a letter explaining its contents and the final steps of the licensing process. It will include a serialized Blue Form, which pairs with the Learner's Permit to act as a Temporary License (valid for six months from the licensing "Eligibility Date"). The Temporary License does not come into effect until the new driver has reached his or her licensing Eligibility Date. We mail the Yellow Form from this certificate the Virginia DMV. The state DMV processes this form, sends it to the Court, and promises that the Court will issue an appointment letter within 90 days of the Eligibility Date. The proposed Court Date should be within 180 days of the Eligibility Date listed on the licensing certificate. The Temporary License holder will receive the final, laminated license at the licensing ceremony at the Court.
The Temporary Provisional License is not valid until the holder reaches the Eligibility Date. This is one of the reasons that we always strongly encourage students to spread out their seven training sessions with us, integrated with home training, to provide the best learning approach for this complex skill. It is also why we advise scheduling the seventh session relatively close to or after the Eligibility Date. There is no benefit to completing our program prior to the Eligibility Date when it comes to issuance of the license.
We mail the licensing packet (using regular postal delivery) within three (3) business days of the client completing all licensing requirements, including the final Road Skills Test, and all forms being E-Certified. For example, if a Client completes training on a Tuesday, passing the Road Skills Test, and the Client E-Certifies all forms on Wednesday, we will mail this packet on or before the following Monday (the third business day). Weekend days or Holidays do not count as business days.
Important Note: Because of a change in law in Virginia which took effect on July 1, 2016, a licensing certificate issued to someone under age 18 becomes invalid for driving on the 18th birthday. To help manage the inherent problems that this creates for clients, we will HOLD the licensing certificate for any client whose Eligibility Date occurs within seven (7) days of turning age 18. In these cases, we will mail the licensing packet, along with an Adult Waiver, on the first business day on or after the 18th birthday. The client cannot drive independently on this certificate and must walk this certificate into a Virginia DMV location to convert it into a Temporary License. For a client who has received our licensing packet and turns age 18 prior to receiving the full license, the certificate becomes invalid to drive independently on the 18th birthday. The certificate holder must walk this certificate into a Virginia DMV location to convert it into a Temporary License.
Q: How does the Payment Plan work?
A: If you purchase with a Payment Plan (available for most of our "packages" of services), the services that you purchase will be released on a schedule related to your payments. The following examples illustrate most of the Payment Plan situations, but please call our office if you have any questions:
- If you purchase a full licensing package that includes knowledge (online or classroom) plus in-car training (7 sessions in this example), the sessions release as follows:
- First payment of four releases the knowledge-based training plus the first behind-the-wheel session.
- Second payment of four releases the second and third behind-the-wheel session.
- Third payment of four releases the fourth and fifth behind-the-wheel session.
- Fourth payment of four releases the sixth and seventh behind-the-wheel session.
- If you purchase a package of three in-car training sessions, the sessions release as follows:
- First payment of four releases the first behind-the-wheel session.
- Third payment of four releases the second behind-the-wheel session.
- Fourth payment of four releases the third behind-the-wheel session.
- If you purchase a package of four in-car training sessions, the sessions release as follows:
- First payment of four releases the first behind-the-wheel session.
- Second payment of four releases the second behind-the-wheel session.
- Third payment of four releases the third behind-the-wheel session.
- Fourth payment of four releases the fourth behind-the-wheel session.
- If you purchase a package of five in-car training sessions, the sessions release as follows:
- First payment of four releases the first behind-the-wheel session.
- Third payment of four releases the second and third behind-the-wheel sessions.
- Fourth payment of four releases the fourth and fifth behind-the-wheel sessions.
- If you purchase a package of seven in-car training sessions, the sessions release as follows:
- First payment of four releases the first behind-the-wheel session.
- Second payment of four releases the second and third behind-the-wheel sessions.
- Third payment of four releases the fourth and fifth behind-the-wheel sessions.
- Fourth payment of four releases the sixth and seventh behind-the-wheel sessions.
- If you purchase a package of ten in-car training sessions, the sessions release as follows:
- First payment of four releases the first and second behind-the-wheel session.
- Second payment of four releases sessions three through five.
- Third payment of four releases the sixth and seventh behind-the-wheel sessions.
- Fourth payment of four releases sessions eight through ten.
Q: Where can I find the detailed terms that apply to the services offered by I Drive Smart, including key state-mandated regulations?
A: The general terms that govern your relationship with I Drive Smart, including the maximum period to complete training, our refund policy, and other relevant items, can be found on our global Terms page: https://www.idrivesmart.com/terms.cfm
Additional disclaimers and terms that relate to particular services, including state-mandated regulations which can vary from state to state, can be found via these links
To learn more about the requirements and recommendations for new or experienced drivers in Virginia, please visit:
Virginia DMV >>