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Is Driver’s Education in America Working?

Editorial Staff

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Is driver's education in america effective

According to the US Department of Education there are a few statistics we must look at before we decide if driver’s ed in America is effective. To begin, only 8% of all fatal accidents in the United States are caused by drivers between the ages of 15 and 18. 8% at first glance doesn’t look too high, but when you look closer at this figure you must also note that auto crashes are the leading cause of death in this age group.

It was once thought that effective driver education and training would reduce the high crash rates of young, novice drivers. Multiple evaluations of driver education, however, have failed to provide any evidence for decreased crash rates among teen drivers who completed driver education. Nevertheless, driver education remains a standard for acquiring driving skills, and many states require driver education for all drivers under the age of 18.

In fact, 23 states require some form of driver’s education. Another 6 states require short pre-licensing courses or drug-and-alcohol-awareness courses for all drivers under 18. In 35 states, a teen can obtain an unrestricted license before 18 whether or not he/she takes driver education. In 25 states, a teen who takes driver’s education can get an unrestricted license at a younger age. States with farming rank higher for earlier driving than states with larger cities.

Study Created to Determine Effectiveness of Driver’s Ed

A study was conducted to review the effectiveness of the driver’s education program while noting programs vary from state to state, as do the expertise of various instructors and school district standards.

The study formed an expert panel to apply the results of the various literature reviews and data collection activities to driver education. The expert panel included representatives from driver education, traffic safety research, general education, and injury prevention areas.

The panel reviewed four topics:
1) The state of driver education in America
2) Research on driver education
3) Best teaching practices for teens
4) A working model for a driver training sequence encompassing driver education and graduated driver licensing (GDL) systems

The panel also discussed the potential benefits of more frequent and rigorous testing and more parental involvement in the restricted licensing phase.

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Conclusions of Study

Current driver’s education appears to do a good job of preparing students to pass the licensing exam. The expectation that driver’s education will lead to a decreased teen crash rate is unrealistic and beyond what current practice can be expected to achieve.

The above results were troubling to say the least. If this is the conclusion, then driver’s education in America is basically existing to help older teens pass the test to obtain their driver’s license rather than become better drivers. Of course, this measurement must vary from program to program. Or, does this actually mean, the results of this study were unable to measure if the students were better drivers or not? How is this measured? Were any students actually followed from driver’s ed and statistically measured for five or ten years to see if they had accidents compared to others who did not have driver’s ed from the same areas during the same amount of time? That did not take place in this study. To have an effective study measuring the effectiveness of driver’s education, you have to actually measure what you are trying to find out.

Insurance Company Discount for Driver’s Education

Car insurance companies still give student discounts if the student takes driver’s ed, so there is the proof of effectiveness of driver’s ed in America. The insurance companies do not just give money away. They have done the research and they know kids who take driver’s ed are statistically better drivers. This saves the insurance industry money on average. It’s about the bottom line for them.

Is Driver’s Education in America Effective? It depends on the driver. Ask your nearest teen what they think. Or better still, ask a 20-something. You might be surprised.

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