Now that Republican state senators have decided to keep driver’s education in the public schools, a critique of the program could be helpful in making it better.
As reported by The News & Observer’s Road Worrier, Bruce Siceloff, a team of experts brought together by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration came to North Carolina to give driver’s ed a look. They found problems that need to be addressed.
Among the team’s findings, Siceloff reported, is a need for one state agency to be responsible for setting curriculum standards and assessing the courses when they’re completed. Now, local school districts have most of the authority. Second, there need to be certification and training standards for driver’s ed teachers. Third, parents should be brought in before and after driver’s ed classes to talk with the student’s instructor. Finally, the DMV’s tests should be evaluated to see whether they really produce students who can drive safely.
GOP senators, after a 2014 report from the legislature’s Program Evaluation Division, couldn’t wait to justify killing off driver’s ed because the division’s report said graduates of driver’s ed didn’t do well on the DMV license test.
Where they should have cast the blame was upon themselves. That’s the view of the state’s top authority on young drivers, Rob Foss of the University of North Carolina’s Highway Safety Research Center. Driver’s ed funding has been reduced in recent years, he notes, and the legislature has an aversion to setting state standards. That’s ridiculous, as if good driving rules in Statesville aren’t good driving rules in Raleigh.
“The legislature,” Foss says, “has not done their job for decades. So it’s a little unfair of them to be taking potshots and criticizing now.”
Foss believes some of the critique is right, but he thinks it’s most important for a student’s parents to meet an instructor after a course is over. The instructor can tell parents what a young driver needs to practice. And that practice is something that’s required under North Carolina’s graduated licensing system.
The state needs to get more active in this issue. It’s a simple fact, locally, and nationally, that more training for teenagers produces better and safer young drivers, which means the training helps every single person who shares a roadway with these drivers.
Republicans missed the mark when they went after driver’s education, and they doubtless heard about it from the mothers and fathers back home. That should be a signal to them that parents of young drivers, and most North Carolinians for that matter, want more focus on programs to help new drivers, not less.