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How to Start a Driving School in DE: A Step-by-Step Guide
Here you’ll learn everything you need to start your Driving School in Delaware
Driver’s education in Delaware is largely under the control of the school system–at least for new drivers under 18. All public and non-public school students are entitled by state law to one free driver education course. This course includes classroom time as well as behind-the-wheel and in-car observation time.
DE also does not require a minimum number of hours of behind-the-wheel driving in order for people to take and pass the road test. The decision to seek additional behind the wheel training is therefore up to the parents and student–or the new adult driver.
Delaware does encourage drivers to take a defensive driving course–which may be offered by private driving schools. Some drivers may be required to take a Driver Improvement course by a court. Finally, DE does have requirements for CDL driving schools.
How to open your driving school in Delaware
- The regulations for commercial driving schools in DE are pretty straight forward.
- Your facilities must meet commercially reasonable state requirements.
- You must use an approved form of contract for all students and maintain student records.
- The qualifications for instructors of regular driving, defensive driving, and behavior modification courses are similar.
- Public and private high schools generally offer the full driver’s education courses in DE; your commercial Delaware driving school may offer Defensive Driving courses approved by the state—these allow insurance reductions.
- Delaware imposes no special requirements for providing CDL instruction.
Driving School Information Summary
Before you open your doors, you need to make sure that you are in compliance with your state’s requirements. In DE, the requirements are specified for driving schools offering training for a commercial driver’s license. In addition, offering additional driver training courses, either to promote defensive driving or encourage behavior modification/anger-management must meet state requirements.
Delaware also has a regulatory system for all commercial driving schools. These requirements are outlined first.
Commercial Driving Schools in Delaware
To run a commercial driving school in DE, you will need to meet a number of state regulatory requirements. While they are pretty straightforward, making sure your plans follow all of the regulations is a wise idea as you startup your driving school in the First State.
Your application for an initial license should included the following:
- Name and address of the school and the owners or officers of the corporation.
- A description of the classroom and behind-the-wheel instruction you will be providing.
- The places where you will be providing instruction.
- Samples of your contracts and schedule of fees.
- Statement of financial responsibility.
- The application must be sworn to by a sole proprietor or all officers of a corporation; in the latter case all stockholders must be identified.
- Each applicant or officer must submit to a background check, including fingerprinting.
- A list of all instructors must be included.
- An copy of the assumed business name certificate must be included.
The fee for the original application is $115 plus $50 for the background check; renewal fees are $115.
Licenses expire in December, and must be displayed in the office along with the service fee list for the school, and an instructor list.
Location and Operation
Your facilities must meet certain requirements. Most of these requirements are commercially reasonable.
- You must have adequate office space, and if you offer classroom instruction, your space must be at least 200 square feet in size, with proper lighting, heat, and comfort care for students.
- You may not be in or adjacent to a building used by the DMV to receive applications for driver’s licenses; the same restriction applies to locations used by the Driver License Examiners.
- The DMV expects you will be operating out of a legitimate location, not a house trailer, residence room of a hotel, bar or grill, billiard hall, or gasoline station–the regulations have a longer list.
- Your office and classroom don’t need to be at the same location, it appears from the regulations (section 8.0). The key is maintaining the right size–12 square feet per student, adequate heat and light, etc.
- Make sure you have adequate seating and writing surfaces, chalkboards/whiteboards and other visual materials, textbooks and other appropriate materials.
- You may share classroom space with other driving schools, but you must keep the schedule tightly, and have it available at your premises.
- No classroom may be more than 15 miles from your office.
Your contract forms MUST be approved by the DMV. All contracts with a student must be in writing. Each contract form must include:
- School name and address and student name and address–as well as student license and permit number.
- Schedule of lessons for both classroom and behind-the-wheel instruction, as well as the rate per hour for lessons.
- Clear statement of the contract price and payment terms.
- Dates, places, and hours of instruction.
You may not say “NO REFUND” nor guarantee a license. You may include a refund policy. The state also requires very specific verbiage which you will find at Section 6.4.6 of the Regulations. Remember you need to follow the regulations!
Delaware’s regulation forbid photocopying, dittoing, or mimeographing (!) to be “preprinted”–your contracts should be preprinted
Make sure you do the following as you operate your driving school in DE:
- Make sure each student has a valid Delaware driver’s license or learner’s permit.
- Make sure each student has a permit or license on their person when giving behind-the-wheel instruction.
- Avoid contracting for unlimited lessons–your program should be for a set number of lessons.
Retain your records and contracts for at least three years–and they must be available for inspection by the DMV during your regularly stated business hours.
Required Driving School Records in Delaware
Delaware requires driving schools to have an accident form ready for use in the event of an accident, which thereupon must be submitted to the DMV.
You must submit the form of contract you use to the DMV when you apply for a license, and must use that form until you change and get approval for the change. Each contract must be sequentially numbered.
You must maintain student records–which must be on paper if the regulations are to be taken literally. While most schools will track their records electronically, it is important to keep records on paper–and to keep them current. The records you need to maintain on paper are:
- A permanently bound book or series of books with consecutively number pages, indicated the names and addresses of students, their student numbers, and contract numbers. The entries MUST be in sequence by contract number. (If you are smart, this will be a frequently-updated spreadsheet, allowing you to search by student–which is far more practicable).
- A set of files–the “Student Record Files”–which is maintained in alphabetical order. It may be divided into Active and Inactive student sections. Each Student Record File must include a copy of each contract, complete contact information for the student, service description including date and time, the instructor providing the service, the vehicle used, and the receipt number. The information must all be placed on a Student Record Card in the file.
- A permanently bound Cash Book, showing receipts and disbursements, including detailed information about all monies coming in and out. These records must be kept for three years.
- All payments to your driving school must have a receipt issued, and all receipts must be numerically recorded–no number may be repeated. Receipts must be retained in numerical order, and entered in the Cash Book and Student Record Card as appropriate.
Needless to say, your driving school vehicles must also comply with Delaware regulations. Your vehicles must be fully insured as noted below. In addition, they must have seatbelts for students and instructor, a heater/defroster in working condition, a right-side exterior rear view mirror, and current registration and inspection.
Driving school vehicles must also have dual controls for the foot brake and clutch–if the vehicle is manual transmission.
The vehicle must carry signage saying “STUDENT VEHICLE” at least 5 inches in height, and visible from the front and back of the vehicle. The driving school’s name and location must be similarly displayed, with letters/numbers at least 2” in height.
You must carry minimum insurance levels on each vehicle, and the insurance must be from a company licensed to do business in Delaware. The minimum coverages for any one accident are:
- $25,000–individual bodily injury or death
- $50,000–two or more people suffering bodily injury or death
- $10,000–property damage.
You must be licensed by the DMV in Delaware to offer driving training. Never represent that you are affiliated with the DMV, and include your school’s name, phone number, and address in each advertisement
You may state that you are licensed by the state, but the lettering may be no more than ⅓ the size of that of the school’s name. Do not indicate that you have been “approved”.
Do not solicit business in or within 100 feet of a building owned by the state to issue motor vehicle registrations or driving licenses.
Section 11 of the Regulations contains many details of what you may or may not do while advertising your driving school. Make sure you know and follow these rules.
Driving School Instructors
In general, Driving School instructors in Delaware must:
- Be a US citizen of good moral character and sound mind.
- Hold a valid driver’s license and be over 18 years old.
- Have at least 20/40 corrected vision in both eyes.
- Not have had a license revocation or suspension within the last 2 years.
- Have less than 8 points on license in the previous 3 years, and no DUI convictions within 5 years.
- Have at least a High School diploma or GED.
- Have both arms and legs, unless a waiver is granted by the DMV.
- Demonstration completion of a two semester-hour college level course for teachers.
Instructor qualification for Defensive Driving and Behavior Modification courses
Because many schools may offer both options, we’ll go through the combined qualifications here. We’ll not important differences.
AM course Instructors must meet the following basic qualifications:
- Be at least 18 years old.
- Hold at least a high school diploma or GED.
- Have a valid driver’s license–for at least 36 months for the defensive driver instructor.
- Have no more than 4 points on the license (for the Defensive Driver instructor) or 6 points on the license (for the Behavioral Modification course instructor), as well as no license suspensions or revocations within the last two years.
- Defensive Driving instructors must submit–with their initial application–documentation showing a minimum of 9 hours of in-service training classes taught by a certified Instructor–no more than 3 of them may be spent observing the instructor teach an actual instructor. In addition, the applicant must document a minimum of 6 hours of instructor class presentation observed by a Provider-certified instructor.
- Defensive driver instructors must be recertified every three years. Recertification requires documentation of teaching the course for at least 12 hours in the previous calendar year, attended in-service update training seminar, and submits a form certifying that the instructor meets the requirements. A copy of the driving record must accompany the application.
- Behavioral Modification course instructors must recertify annually by demonstrating teaching for at least 8 hour during the previous calendar year and proving attendance at in-service update training seminar.
The Driving School Curriculum in Delaware
Your course should offer both classroom and behind-the-wheel instruction. Unless you are offering a short review course, you should plan a program involving 10 hours of classroom training as well as 6 hours of behind-the-wheel training. Your course should last no more than three weeks.
Instruction may not be given in an officially-designated road test area. Contact the DMV for that information.
To be approved to teach the Delaware defensive driving course at your driving school, you must submit the following materials for approval:
- All written materials used in instruction or provided to students, including testing materials and curricula.
- The identities and qualifications of all instructors.
- All material for the online course, including access to the DMV allowing them to audit the online course.
- All testing/grading for the online course.
- Identity and qualifications of persons available to answer student questions regarding content and technical support for an online course
The course itself must provide at least six hours of instruction or on-line time for the initial course, and three hours for renewals. Each classroom hour must last for at least 50 minutes on average, plus breaks, and online courses must require the same amount of time.
At least three of the six hours must address a set list of topics. The topics, which are spelled out in the regulations, include:
- Delaware traffic laws and defensive driving/collision prevention theory and techniques.
- Vehicle safety devices.
- The effects of drinking, drugs, and driver condition on driving.
- Distractions and road conditions requiring driving adjustment.
- Driving techniques and skills.
- Hazardous situations and symptoms of aggressive driving.
- Speed limits, school buses, emergency vehicle right-of-way, and turn signals.
- Headlights, Motorcycles, and Pedestrians.
- Procedures for the insurance discounts and the 3-point DMV credit.
Students taking Delaware online defensive driving courses must have a technical support person available during normal business. The support personnel must be able to assist with content and technical issues. The hours MUST be posted in bold large lettering on the website before the student accesses the course page. The DMV must approve those hours.
Other items to be aware of as you plan the defensive driving class at your driving school in DE:
- Provide students completing the course with a certificate.
- Obtain online students’ driver’s license information, as well as have each online student complete an online affidavit verifying they are the student taking the course, acknowledging that making a false statement is potentially a criminal violation.
- Inform students how they can file complaints.
- Notify the DMV within 14 of each student’s completion.
- Create your own teaching materials or license other material from another entity.
- Maintain sufficient staff to ensure everything can get done in a timely manner.
Behavior Modification/Attitudinal Adjustment
This course, which follows a conviction for aggressive driving, gives drivers a chance to correct at least part of their offense.
The course must last for at least 8 hours of classroom training, and may not be completed online. At least 50 minutes of each hour must be devoted to curriculum presentation. You will need to maintain full records for at least three years, including information on class locations, times, number and names of participants, as well as their driver’s license numbers and dates of birth.
You will also need to provide your instructors with annual in-service trainings. The DMV prescribes the curriculum for this course.
Commercial Driver’s License Instruction in DE
The content of instruction will follow the CDL manual provided by the state. Your CDL driving school requirements–including your instructors–will have to meet the general qualifications noted above. We recommend your instructors have CDL-A themselves.
One difference is that your vehicles do not need to have dual controls or foot brakes. Your vehicles will need some method which will allow the instructor to bring the vehicle to a halt–the Delaware DMV notes a trolley brake is acceptable.
If you run a Commercial Truck Driver Training School, make sure your instructors have evidence of United States Department of Transportation certification and qualify by experience or training, or both, to instruct students in the safe operation of truck-tractor trailer combination units.
Starting a Small Business in Delaware
Your driving school is not just subject to the requirements for driver’s education in Delaware. 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.
All businesses need to register in Delaware, 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.
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 Delaware, sole proprietorships are subject to the following requirements:
- File your “Doing Business As” certificate with the Prothonotary’s office in each county you will be doing business in.
- File as you need to with the Division of Revenue, Unemployment Insurance, and Workers’ Compensation.
- Register with your localities as necessary/
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 Delaware. 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 Delaware. 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.
- Delaware Corporations and LLCs should register with the state’s “OneStop” process–which will guide you through all the steps needed.
- For either structure, you’ll probably need to check on name availability.
- Corporations will need to file Articles of Incorporation.
- Limited Liability Companies file certificates of formation.
- Consult your attorney and use the forms Delaware provides for filings at the state level
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 Delaware, 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.
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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