Over the last fifteen years every state has implemented graduated licensing laws. Graduated licensing laws grant driving privileges to teenagers in stages, restricting some driving privileges until drivers gain more experience. Some common restrictions include:
- Prohibiting inexperienced drivers from driving at night
- Prohibiting inexperienced drivers from driving with young, nonfamily passengers
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), since the implementation of graduated licensing laws the teenage death rate due to car accidents has steadily declined. But while restricting night driving and driving with young, nonfamily passengers has been effective, is it enough?
In 16 states, drivers who complete a driver education course can bypass many of the graduated licensing restrictions. Researchers at the IIHS opine that circumventing the graduated licensing restrictions may be counterproductive.
The Need for More Driver Education
There is not a national standard for driver education requirements. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has implemented guidelines, but the guidelines are not mandatory. The absence of uniform standards in driver education results in varied requirements across the United States; with some states having comprehensive curriculums and others having no mandatory driver education requirements at all.
The decrease in public financing has made driver education courses less accessible for many students. In the 1970s, 95 percent of students received driver education. The majority of driver education was offered through the public schools. Now, many students have to pay private companies.
States that offer comprehensive driver education courses and that do not allow new drivers to bypass most graduated licensing restrictions, have seen the most substantial decreases in teen car crashes and driving offenses.
Car crashes are the number-one killer of teens. And while fatalities have decreased significantly since the implementation of graduated licensing laws, our teens still need the proper training and education to keep them safe behind the wheel.
Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “The Mixed Bag of Driver Education,” Tanya Mohn, July 9, 2012.