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

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

Compared to many states, New Mexico makes it relatively easy to establish a driving school. You still need to complete forms, and meet requirements, but the state seems to be driving-school friendly.

New Mexico driver training schools may offer classroom instruction, behind-the-wheel training, or both. Schools which offer a 30-hour classroom instruction and 6-hour behind-the-wheel course may issue a Certificate of Course Completion.

How to open your driving school in New Mexico

Driving School Licensing and Requirements

General requirements

To operate a driving school in New Mexico, you will need to be licensed by the state. Licenses are valid for one year, and expires on June 30. Applications should be submitted online. Complete the application form, and submit it along with the following:

  • A Limited Driving History form
  • A Release of Information form
  • A Certificate of Maximum Occupant Load from a Fire Marshal
  • A copy of your resume
  • Schedule of your fees
  • A copy of your written refund policy, rescheduling policy, business license, and EIN number
  • Copies of your curriculum, course outline, handouts, videos, student report and log forms, and the 50 examination questions you’ll use on the final

When the Traffic Safety Division conditionally approves your application, you will need to supply the following:

  • A certificate of insurance
  • A surety bond in the amount of $5,000.
  • The fee of $400 if you apply between July 1 and December 31, or $200 if you apply between January 1 and June 30.
  • $35 per extension site.

File your application for renewal by June 1 of each year.

YOu may not charge more than $800 for the driver education course; you may charge $100 per hour for behind-the-wheel instruction which is not part of the 7-hour required behind-the-wheel course.

The current regulations for Driver Education Providers are straightforward and clear.

New Mexico requires the following minimum liability insurance coverage:

  • $250,000 bodily injury to one person
  • $500,000 bodily injury to more than one person
  • $10,000 personal injury protection–medical expenses, primarily
  • $50,000 Uninsured motorist bodily injury insurance
  • $100,000 property damage

If you have employees, you must carry workers’ compensation insurance covering them–and potentially you–in the event of injury while on the job. You should, of course, consider higher coverages and/or an umbrella policy to cover your operations.

Driving School Owner’s License

New Mexico places few personal requirements on owners of driving schools. The main bar would be conviction for a number of crimes involving fraudulent behavior or moral turpitude.

You may not operate without a license for your program.

Driving Instructor’s License

While no specific requirements are set for driving school owners, instructors must demonstrate qualification before they receive a license from New Mexico. Submit the application form and the $50 fee. Instructors must provide the following/meet the following qualifications.

  • 21 years old with a valid driver’s licence with a clean record
  • Your resume or work history
  • Release of information authorization
  • A health certificate completed within 60 days of the application.
  • A copy of your teaching certificate, diploma from a college or university, or a resume showing you’ve worked in driver training or a related field for at least 3 years.
  • A certificate showing completion of an Instructor Training Course.

Instructor licenses must be renewed annually by June 1.

Location

You are generally free to establish your business anywhere you see fit–meeting the requirements outlined below. The fire marshal must inspect your premises to determine the maximum class size.

Your office space must meet local and state building requirements, and it must be accessible to the public during your regular business hours. It must be accessible to persons with disabilities.

Your school and instructor certificates must be conspicuously, along with any inspection reports.

Records must be maintained at your main business office.

Classroom facilities must be in a building suitable for instruction. Compliance with local and state sanitation requirements is expected. The classroom must be equipped with suitable desks, tables, chairs and other items appropriate to the setting. Projection equipping should allow all students to see videos.

Your school name cannot be substantially similar to that of another driving school, and you may not use the words “State”, “Government”, “Municipal”, “City”, or “County” in the school name, and you must use your school’s name only in advertising and publicity.

Don’t ever give a student or parent the impression that your instruction guarantees receiving a driver’s license–you may mention your pass rate.

Vehicles

Your vehicles need to have dual controls for the brakes, as well as inside rearview mirrors for driver and instructor. They must have passed the most recent New Mexico safety and emissions inspection.

Signage needs to be on the vehicle, identifying the name of the school and telephone number, as well as “Student Driver” or “Driver Education Vehicle”. Lettering must be at least 3” high, and visible to the sides and rear.

Records and Contracts

You will need to keep records of all students and instruction for at least three years after they finish their training with you. The records you need to keep are:

  • Student records showing times/dates of instruction as well as passing/failing grades

You do not need written contracts, but you must provide students with your refund and reschedule policies as well as notice of their rights to contact the state regarding the driving school.

The Driving School Curriculum in New Mexico

Driving schools in New Mexico must offer all three components of the mandated Driver Education program:  classroom, on-road, and parental instruction.

Your classroom course may not have more than 40 students in it, and the size may be lower depending on your market and–more importantly–the maximum occupancy allowed by the fire marshal.

A credit hour is 50 minutes of instruction plus a 10 minute break.

Your classroom course must last for 30 credit hours, 6 of which must be devoted to DWI, the effects of other impairments, and organ donation. You must offer 7 hours of behind-the-wheel instruction.

  • When school is in session, your classes may not last for more than 3 hours per day on school days, and 4 hours on non-school days, and the class must last for at least four weeks.
  • During school vacations/breaks of two or more weeks, your classroom course may last for 2 weeks, with no more than 4 hours per day of classroom instruction.
  • Students must pass a 50 question test.

You may create your own curriculum, but it must be approved by the TSD. A sample curriculum from UNM is available.

The modules you must teach during the 30 hour classroom course are:

  • Introduction to Driver’s Ed
  • Signs, Signals, and Road Markings
  • Understanding the Vehicle
  • Basic Driving Skills
  • Rules of the Road
  • Making Safe Driving Decisions
  • Sharing the Road
  • How Natural Law Affects Driving
  • Different Driving Environments
  • Driving in All Weather Conditions
  • Mental and Physical Effects on Driving
  • Dangers of Alcohol, Drugs, and Driving–two Modules.
  • Consequences of Unsafe Driving and Poor Decision Making
  • Handling Emergencies and Breakdowns

Your behind-the-wheel course must last for 7 actual hours. It must begin no more than 30 days after then end of classroom instruction. At least 4 of the hours must be on-street. Up to 3 hours may be credited with

  • Range driving, or
  • Simulator time, at a rate of 2 simulator hours for 1 actual behind-the-wheel hour

Students may not take more than 1 hour of BTW training on school days, and 2 hours on non-school days. You may not begin BTW training until your course has covered 9 hours on the following topics:

  • Vehicle awareness and control orientation
  • Basic rules of the road
  • Vision and Control
  • The use of the steering wheel, accelerator, and brakes
  • Turning left and right, and
  • Signs, signals, and road markings

Commercial Driver’s License Instruction

You’ll need to work with the Private Post-Secondary Schools Division of the State Higher Ed Department to be licensed as a CDL school. The regulations and requirements are very detailed.

Starting a Small Business in New Mexico

Your driving school is not just subject to the requirements for driver’s education in New Mexico. 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.

Business Registration

All businesses need to register in New Mexico, 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.

You should also register with the New Mexico Department of Taxation and Revenue.

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.

Corporations and LLCs

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 New Mexico. 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.

You may be able to set your driving school up as an LLC in New Mexico. 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.

Both Corporations and LLCs file with the Secretary of State. In addition to name reservation, you’ll need to submit the following forms

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 New Mexico, 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

Driving schools in New Mexico are an important part of ensuring safe highways in the decades ahead. By following the simple steps outlined in this guide, you will be able to get your driving school going quickly and effectively.

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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