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Is Today’s Driver Education Really Keeping Our Kids Safe?

A recent New York Times article makes a bold and alarming statement.

“The first year that American teenagers have their driver’s licenses will be among the most dangerous of their lives. Nothing kills more of them than car crashes.”

Shouldn’t recent changes in young driver regulations and driver education be improving these car accident statistics?

The ability to get a driver’s license is left up to individual states. Some have chosen the hands-off approach, letting parents take responsibility. In some cases, parents could actually sign off of their children’s licenses without any sort of government testing. Others can get their licenses in part, by taking online classes.

The ability to get a driver’s license is left up to individual states. Some have chosen the hands-off approach, letting parents take responsibility. In some cases, parents could actually sign off of their children’s licenses without any sort of government testing. Others can get their licenses in part, by taking online classes.

This is in an amazing difference to the 1970s. Back then, 95 percent of eligible students nationwide received driver education, primarily through public schools. As school budgets got tighter, private companies ended up taking on the responsibility for educating young drivers.

In a best-case scenario, students would be exposed to a mix of classroom training, behind-the-wheel driving instruction and parental involvement. In many cases, though, this type of intensive training is only available to teens whose families can afford to pay for it. Others are left to self-study with inexpensive online programs.

California Driver Education

California has better driver education rules that many states. Driver education is still offered in public high schools, although individual school districts have the discretion to determine whether the class shall be required for graduation or not. The class is offered free of charge to students.

All students must also undergo at least six hours of behind-the-wheel driving instruction with a certified professional. In addition, they must complete 50 hours of supervised driving practice, at least 10 of which must be done after dark.

Source: The New York Times, “The Mixed Bag of Driver Education,” Tanya Mohn, June 22, 2012.

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