Driver’s education still needs fixing

A driver’s education lesson last month at Jordan Driving School in Raleigh.
A driver’s education lesson last month at Jordan Driving School in Raleigh.

From an editorial Sunday in the (Raleigh) News & Observer:

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 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.

Among the team’s findings, Siceloff reported, is a need for one state agency to be responsible for setting curriculum standards and assessing 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 classes to talk with the 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 in Raleigh.

Republicans missed the mark when they went after driver’s education, and they doubtless heard about it 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.