Current Driver’s Education: A Troubling Issue for America
From the March 2003 invasion of Iraq until September of 2006, about 2,600 American troops were killed in combat and war-related incidents (Wilson 18). Did you know during that same 41-month period, more than 22,000 teenagers, ages 15 to 19, died in traffic accidents on U.S. roads? (Wilson 18). That number has now escalated to approximately 4,500 soldiers and over 40,000 teens lost. Parents in the United States have relied on driver’s education and training to prepare their teens for the responsibility of driving. In fact, we rely too much on driver’s education. Recent studies have indicated that driver’s education, or DE, has failed to produce safe drivers. Even though the common form of driver’s education and training has been cited as ineffective, there are efforts being made around the country that have the ability to profoundly change driver education as we know it and prepare young drivers, create safer drivers, and ultimately save teen lives.
Every year, thousands of teenagers receive their driver’s licenses and millions are driving on America’s roads. Ensuring their safety and the safety of others is crucial. 16 to 18 year-olds have higher crash rates than drivers in any other age group. Between 5,000 and 6,000 youth will die on our roads this year and another 300,000 will be seriously injured. America has many more young people die in traffic incidents than it does in military service, and yet there has been little political or public activity done to make this problem known to the nation.
The history of driver’s education goes way back. The first known DE programs were developed between 1910 and 1920. However, it was not until the 1930s that formal courses were actually offered. In 1949, the standard formula for DE of “30+6” was put forth. This meant that students would receive 30 hours of classroom instruction and six hours of behind-the-wheel training. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the early growth and popularity of driver’s education were fueled by studies reporting it to be effective in reducing crashes. Unfortunately, these studies failed to control the differences between students with and without proper DE. After these results, there was a period of uncertainty about DE efforts.
Certain trends have developed in modern DE. For many years, DE was primarily taken in high schools, but that is not the case today. Many teens learn to drive by taking driver’s ed classes at commercial driving schools. Commercial programs are more diverse, and developments in computer technology have led to changes in the way driver’s education is delivered. Before obtaining a driver’s license, a student must obtain a learner’s permit to practice driving with a qualified adult (a parent/guardian). The problem is that some parents may pass on bad habits to their teens, causing the teen driver to develop bad habits and never learn the correct way to drive.