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How to Start a Driving School in GA: A Step-by-Step Guide

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Here you’ll learn everything you need to start your Driving School in Georgia

Georgia’s process for starting a driving school in the state is fairly straightforward. Private driving schools in Georgia can offer both a 30-hour classroom course as well as the 6 hours of behind-the-wheel driving instruction required for teens to obtain their license. Driving instructors may also provide some or all of the 40 hours of supervised driving.

Georgia driving schools may also offer Driver Improvement and DUI Risk Reduction courses for adult drivers.

How to open your driving school in Georgia

Driving School Information Summary

Before you open your doors, you need to make sure that you are in compliance with your state’s requirements.

Each state’s regulations for driving schools and driving instructors vary. In this section, we’ll outline Georgia’s key regulations, as well as include links to any relevant state agencies. These links don’t apply to general business requirements—we cover that below.  This section is specific to driving schools in GA.

The Application Packet

Starting a new driving school requires completion of the application packet. The application packet expects a fair amount of work to have been completed before you submit the packet. The Department of Driver Services recommends submitting all paperwork at least 30 days before you plan to open.

You will need to do the following to get your license to operate a driving school in Georgia.

  • All “Applicants” must view “Prerequisites of Opening a Driver Safety Program in Georgia”. Applicants include owners, partners, corporate officers, and/or controlling stockholders.
  • In addition, each applicant must sign the “Certificate of Completion” at the bottom of page 1 of the application packet, and must complete Sections 2-4 of the application.
  • Each applicant must complete a Consent for Background Investigation form, which is included in the packet.
  • All applicants must also comply with the fingerprinting requirements–all of which are spelled out in the packet.

The packet walks you through the information you need to provide. One thing to note is that ALL correspondence will be sent via email, unless you specifically choose mail delivery.

The information you must provide in your application includes:

  • Full contact information.
  • The type of school certification you’re applying for, Full or Limited; Full means you provide both 30 hours of classroom instruction and at least 6 hours of behind-the-wheel training (the full 30/6 program), while Limited means you’re only providing one or the other.
  • The services you offer.
  • If you are a corporation or limited liability company, a listing of officers and controlling stockholders.
  • If you are a partnership, a list of all partners.
  • The approved 30-hour curriculum you are using–Georgia allows a choice from a short list–or you can write your own.
  • Lists of the vehicles you will be using and instructors you employ, including full information about them.

Facilities, Location, and Hours

Your office may not be based in your residence; you must have a separate office. In your office, you must display your school license, and you are subject to inspection by the Department of Driver Services. Your business hours must comply with the requirements of the Department–those hours are outlined later.

The Department has a number of specific rules for the telephone in the Driving School office. The telephone must be used exclusively for the school’s operation. You may not operate your office entirely through a telephone answering service or answering machine (or, presumably, voicemail). An answering service may be used only when the office is unstaffed.

You may list your residence number on your business card or advertisements, but only if you state that the phone number can be used only after a certain hour. An 800 number must be toll free for all calls from the county in which the classroom is located.

Your office must comply with the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act, as well as all zoning, fire, sanitation, and building requirements of the locality or county.

GA does not require a specific size for a classroom, except that it be indoors and set apart for instruction. It must be large enough to allow for classes with a maximum of forty students. The Department may limit the class size based on a figure of 20 square feet for a minimum of 15 students.

Practically speaking, your classroom should be around 300 square feet.

Your office and classroom location is up to you, except that you may not be within 500 feet of a building which the Department uses to conduct driver’s license examinations or to issue driver’s licenses.

You may not use the word “State” in any part of your school name.

Your office must be open for at least 15 hours per week, and at least 7 ½ hours must be during the normal business hours kept by the DDS–8:30 am to 5 pm.  During those hours, an employee must be available to provide information and present documents for inspection in the event someone from the DDS inspects the school. You may close for lunch hours, but must let the DDS know of your lunch hour–and all hours–as part of your application packet.

Advertising

Don’t start advertising until you  are licensed by the DDS to provide driving instruction. In your ads, don’t state anything which might suggest you are or were an employee of the DDS, and you should always use the full school name.

You should not suggest that driver’s license is guaranteed because of your instruction. You may state that your school is state licensed/inspected, but make sure that you use those words–not that you’re “certified”, or “recognized”, or in any way approved or endorsed by the DDS.

You may only state that your provide free lessons for students who fail the state tests if, in fact, you do provide those lessons and state the maximum number available to such students.

Records and Contracts

The DDS may inspect your records during normal business hours. The regulations actually seem to have a contradiction for what they mean by “normal business hours”–so we recommend consider them to be from 8:30 am to 5 pm. At least half of your hours of business need to be during that time, although regulations also have a contradiction in the number of hours.

One regulation requires the school to be open for at least 6 hours per day, while another says 15 hours per week. Your attorney may be able to resolve this contradiction for you.

You must keep a daily log of all classroom and on-the-road instruction for each student. The log must include observation and actual driving time, student and instructor names, and the vehicle license plate number. You may keep this log electronically.

Each contract you’ve entered into must be kept for three years. You must hold onto rosters for each class, listing the school’s number, name, and address, as well as the instructor’s name and license. Student information should include their name and date of birth. Class schedules must be kept for three years, noting the date and time of classes

Your GA driving school contracts must contain certain items. First, it must provide information responding to the following requirements:

(a) An agreed contract price per hour of lesson or a total contract price for the number of hours of instruction to be given.

(b) Whether an additional charge will be made for the use of school’s vehicle for the actual driving instruction, or for picking up a student or taking his/her to the desired destination upon completion of a lesson.

In addition, the contracts must meet the following guidelines.

  • You may not state or imply that receiving a license is guaranteed after instruction at your school.
  • The date and time of the course/program is clearly stated.
  • The contract notes that all instructors are certified by the DDS, and that the school is licensed by the DDS in accordance with Title 43-13-1 (The Driver Training School and Commercial Driver Training School License Act) and the rules and regulations of the Department.
  • The contracts must be prenumbered.
  • A clause noting that a performance bond of $2,500 exists for the protection of the contractual rights of students.
  • A clause which details what happens if either party breaches the contract.

The Driving School Curriculum in Georgia

Georgia currently has approved six commercial curricula for driver education schools. They are listed here also–some of the URLs may differ.

  • DriveRight by Prentice Hall; the URL on the form is no longer correct, but this link was current when we wrote this.
  • ADTSEA’s curriculum; again the form lists a dead URL.
  • According to the form, Cengage.com has a course called License to Drive, but a search doesn’t seem to locate it.
  • Glencoe/McGraw Hill–Responsible Driving
  • AAA How to Drive; this resource seems active, but the other AAA program seems to be down.

You may also create your own curriculum. It will have to be approved by the Department before you use it. The curriculum must meet the following requirements.

  • The Classroom portion must last for at least 30 hours.
  • Multimedia presentations may take up no more than 10% of the total course time.
  • Students will demonstrate competence in 20 standards, including content on Georgia driving laws, vehicle operation and management, handling intersections, communication with other drivers, effects of drugs and alcohol, the effects of aggressive driving and fatigue, handling environmental variation, and emergency response.

If you design your own curriculum, you will need to submit the following to the DDS:

  • Two copies of the full curriculum.
  • Copies of all multimedia presentations.
  • One copy of the teacher/instructor guidance material.
  • A detailed syllabus.
  • The Application form and information to demonstrate that you will meet the 30 hours of classroom content.
  • The Checklist which works through all the content areas–it’s part of the application packet.

Georgia also allows online driver instruction for the classroom portion, but it must comply with the 30-hour requirement.

Behind-the-Wheel

Georgia requires 6 hours of driving instruction with a driving instructor for new drivers under 18 years old. In addition, drivers under 18 must also have 40 hours of supervised driving with a driver over 21 years old. 6 of those hours must be at night.

Parents, guardians, and driving instructors may all be supervising drivers.  Parents/guardians must certify the hours when the student takes the road test.

Requirements to be a Driving Instructor in Georgia

Certification as a driving instructor in Georgia requires an application and examination. To become a certified driving instructor, you must meet the following requirements:

  • 21 years old.
  • Have a valid Georgia driver’s license, which has not been suspended within 5 years.
  • Submit the results of a physical examination and drug screening.
  • Either a copy of a Georgia teacher certification in Safety and Driver Education or take and pass and exam on driver instruction–the DDS offers exams on the 2nd and 4th Thursdays of the month
  • Be fingerprinted and consent to a background check.

The application package includes the forms for your physical examination and consent for background investigation. It also includes information on fingerprinting.

Needless to say, any other driving instructors you hire must have the same license to provide driving instruction in Georgia.

Other Requirements for Georgia Driving Schools

No employee of the DDS may be an owner, operator, instructor, or employee of any State-licensed driving school. This bar applies also to the spouse, dependent child/stepchild/adopted child of an employee.

Each vehicle must carry signage. First, the name of the school must be visible on the front, side, or rear in block letters at least 2” high. If the sign is not permanently attached to the car, then it must be attached to the rear bumper or roof of the car, visible to the rear.

The words “STUDENT DRIVER” must also be visible to the rear, at least 2” in height.

Don’t wear any uniform or clothing which suggests that you are an employee from the DDS, and don’t go into any DDS offices for purposes of instruction, marketing, or other commercial reason.

Commercial Driver’s License Instruction

Providing instruction for students pursuing a CDL in Georgia generally follow those for the regular driver’s license. In this section, we’ll note the key differences.

Information

The application form is almost identical to that for regular driving schools. Your business hours are expected to be between 8:30 am and 4:30 pm–at least.

Your office and classroom space requirements parallel those for regular driver’s license schools, except that you must maintain a range at least 250’ x 250’ (or 62,500 square feet) to allow practice driving. If your range is separate from your office, it will be considered a branch and require a separate license.

CDL Curriculum

Your CDL curriculum must provide a thorough classroom and practical experience for your students. While the number of hours are not specified in the state’s regulations, the state does have to approve your curriculum, and allowing for a program of 140 to 200 hours total will probably be wise. You want to provide your students enough time to pass.

Classroom instruction must cover the following areas thoroughly:

  • Rules of the Road
  • Regulations for commercial drivers
  • Safe driving practices
  • Driver and pedestrian safety
  • Federal rules

Practical instruction includes all forms of behind-the-wheel experience, including stopping, starting shifting, turning, backing, parallel parking, and steering.

Students must make up time missed on the road/range training as specified in your curriculum. ON completion, you may issue numbered certificates of completion. You must keep track of class rosters.

All road training must include city, rural, and interstate driving.

Your range must be large enough to allow practice a number of maneuvers, and you must have enough cones/barrels to allow the following:

  • Alley docking
  • Straight-line backing
  • Parallel parking
  • Offset alley, serpentine, and/or right turn

You must carry the following minimum insurance on each vehicle:

  • $100,000 for bodily injury/death to one person in an accident;
  • $200,000 for bodily injury/death to two or more people in an accident; and
  • $20,000 for property damage in any one accident.

Each vehicle should be equipped with dual controls as follows:

  • Passenger side brake pedal and clutch pedal, if the truck has a conventional gear shift.
  • Two outside rearview mirrors, and two inside ones.

CDL Instructor Requirements

The application process for a CDL instructor is similar to that for regular drivers, except CDL driving instructors must have a medical certificate and drug test.

Starting a Small Business in Georgia

Your driving school is not just subject to the requirements for driver’s education in Georgia. You also need to establish your Driving School as a small business, and have to consider a number of factors.

The form of business you take up, as well as the procedures, are appropriate topics of conversation with your lawyer and accountant. The considerations we offer here are not legal advice, but should provide you with things to think about as you set up your business. The GA Secretary of State provides an overview of these issues.

Business Registration

All businesses need to register in Georgia, especially the business name—the “doing business as” certificate. Banks may not be willing to set up your account until you have that DBA form. We’ll include where to register in the business structures below.

You will also need to obtain a Federal Employer Identification Number. Banks may need it for your business accounts, and you may be wanting to employ people. To obtain an EIN, go to the IRS website and complete the application form you find linked there.

Sole ProprietorshiP

Owning your own business is the easiest one to set up, but also may open you to liability concerns. As a sole proprietor, your business is simply part of your life. You keep a separate set of books, and complete a Schedule C for your 1040 form every April.

Sole proprietorships can expose the proprietor for full liability, even with insurance. That may mean that if you are sued, you may lose your home and property, as well as your personal bank accounts and other assets.  This risk may not be worth the ease and independence.

In Georgia, sole proprietorships are subject to the following requirements:

  • File for a trade name with the Clerk of your county’s Superior Court. You may search for available names with the Georgia Secretary of State.
  • Obtain local business licenses, permits, and zoning clearance–you will need to submit copies of these documents with your application for a driving school license.

Corporations

You may set up a full corporation (“Inc.”) as your business structure. Corporations limit your liability for loss to your investment in it, as a general rule (although banks may require you to be obligated personally if you take out a loan to get your business going). This form of business keeps your personal assets safe.

As an owner of a corporation, you’ll have to set up your driving school consistently with the rules for corporations in Georgia.. You’ll also have to decide whether to be an S Corporation or a C Corporation. Generally, the S Corporation form is set up for small businesses. It allows income and taxes to pass through to the owners. You will want to discuss these forms with your attorney and accountant.

Limited Liability Company (LLC)

You may be able to set your driving school up as an LLC in Georgia. The LLC form provides the same limited liability as a Corporation, but do not have to comply with the corporate formalities most states require, including items like bylaws, required stockholder meetings, and minutes (although minutes of meetings are probably a good idea).

You’ll have to discuss the advantages and disadvantages for the LLC with your attorney and accountant.

Registration of Corporations and LLCs

The process is almost identical for each. We’ll note when there are differences.

  • You’ll probably want to reserve your business name first, with the Georgia Secretary of State. The fee is $25, and the name reservation is good for 30 days.
  • Gather the key contact information of the person filing for the corporation/LLC, including name and address, email, mailing address of the principal office, name and address of the registered agent.
  • Name and address of each incorporator, for a corporation, as well as the number of authorized shares.
  • Name and address of each organizer of an LLC.
  • Any optional provisions you need to include your articles of incorporation or articles of organization.

You should be able to file all this information online, and the Georgia Secretary of State takes online payments as well.

Now What Do I Do?

Once you’ve complied with all the legal requirements to be both a driving school and a small business in Georgia, you need to get students.

Getting students requires marketing—largely on the internet. You will need the following systems set up to obtain students:

  • A website—focused on the types of students you want to attract, and aimed at your locality.
  • The website should also include a blog, which allows you write about a variety topics and engage in Search Engine Optimization—which will drive traffic to your site.
  • A Facebook page, linked to your website, to become noticed and drive traffic.
  • Getting testimonials from successful students.

Marketing is something you will have to devote time to. DrivingSchool.Marketing can help you get the best bang for your marketing buck.

Conclusion

Disclaimer: This page is part of DrivingSchool.Marketing’s series of state and provincial pages designed to help entrepreneurs like you start driving schools. States change their regulations, or the web pages they host their forms. While we believe these rules are accurate as of the date of publication, we cannot guarantee full accuracy. Please let us know if you spot any problems.

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Josh Meah

Josh Meah

Josh is the CEO of DrivingSchool.Marketing. His goal is to be the marketing and business development partner of driving schools around the world, helping them become thriving businesses while also expanding general awareness for the importance of traffic safety standards and education.

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