A Better Way: Parent-taught Driver's Ed
Automobile accident rates are higher for 16–19-year-old drivers than for any other age group in the United States, according to figures released in 2006 by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.1 It’s a life-and-death matter. A 2006 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that “motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens, accounting for 36% of all deaths in this age group.”2
TO BE INVOLVED
What causes car crashes among teens?
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that research has identified factors contributing to teen crashes. The top two are inexperience and immaturity. Add other factors such as excessive speed, failure to wear a seat belt, and distractions like cell phone use, loud music, and other teen passengers—you’ve got the potential for a dangerous crash.3
What is the solution?
“A study of issues affecting young drivers, released in December 2000 by George Mason University and the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles, identified parental involvement as the most important factor in teaching teens safe driving behaviors,” says HSLDA Senior Counsel Christopher Klicka.
Klicka also notes that more recently, in September 2006, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s Status Report advised Americans that traditional driver’s education does not provide the intended benefits of producing a safer driver. This report suggests that the way to lower crash potential is to gradually release young drivers as they demonstrate maturity and skill, while simultaneously using parents to train and monitor them during this process.
Wayne Tully, executive director of the National Driving Training Institute (NDTI), which specializes in parent-taught driver’s ed curriculum, says that graduated driver training and licensing is a relatively new, but very important, concept.
“Since the very beginning of driver’s education training in 1949,” he says, “the standard has been 30 hours of classroom and 6 hours behind the wheel. Those were arbitrary numbers and to this day have never worked. In the mid-1990s, the National Driving Training Institute introduced graduated driver licensing. Basically, you do well in this parking lot and you’ll graduate to the streets.”
Concerned that traditional driver’s ed programs are no longer as effective as they used to be in turning out responsible, skilled young drivers, many parents are now teaching driver’s ed to their children themselves, rather then sending them to the public school or private programs, Klicka says.
Here for You
HSLDA members may contact our high school coordinators, Diane Kummer and Becky Cooke, for advice on teaching teens. Call 540-338-5600 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Check out HSLDA’s Homeschooling Thru High School webpages for more helpful information on teaching teens.
Parents Turn Out Safer Drivers
Klicka points out that the effectiveness of parent-taught driver’s education can be demonstrated by comparing statistics. Insurance company statistics show that out of every 100 teen drivers:
- 37 will be ticketed for speeding,
- 28 will be involved in accidents, and
- 13 will be injured in an automobile accident.4
In 2000, the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs conducted a survey that found that for every 100 students using a parent-taught driver’s ed program:
- 8 were ticketed for speeding,
- 8 were involved in accidents, and
- 6 were injured in automobile accidents.5
So, why is it important for parents to teach their children? “The only thing that has reduced crash fatalities in this country is parental involvement,” Tully says. “When driver’s ed is conducted in a homeschool setting, the crash rates among teens taught in these courses have dropped over 90 percent. The comprehension level is over 91 percent for the classroom component of the NDTI program. (The rate of comprehension for traditional driver’s ed is below 15 percent.) Some programs don’t even test on classroom material, so they have no way to determine the students’ comprehension rate.”
According to Klicka, a variety of driver’s ed options are available to parents: some programs simply send curriculum, videos, and tapes providing systematic parent-taught driver's ed. Others require the student and parent to track their progress and accomplishments through each lesson.
Tully adds, “There are lots of programs available—like DriverEd.com, Virtual DriveofAmerica.com, Driver Ed in a Box (driveredtraining.com), and of course, NDTI (usdrivertraining.com).”
Shirley Buck, a Virginia mother who recently taught her 17-year-old son, Jonathan, to drive, says, “I think that as parents doing the teaching, you’re more cautious and focused, and provide a lot more feedback because you’re concerned for your children’s safety—not just for that moment in the car, but for a lifetime of safe driving habits.”
Jonathan agrees: “Parents care more—to teach you, to make sure you understand everything completely before you go out
on the road. They are going to be more
in-depth and give more time to the process, rather than the set amount of time the driver’s ed people would give you.”
For parents considering teaching their own children to drive, Tully advises, “Mom and Dad, you can’t possibly know what your children don’t know until you know what they’re supposed to know. Once you have the big picture of what the kids are supposed to be learning, then together you can begin to figure out what they’ve missed. It’s what they missed that will take life from us.”
“Parents need to be involved from beginning to end in order to set up their teens for success,” he adds.
|About the author
Charity Corkey is a senior journalism major at Patrick Henry College and works part-time in HSLDA's Communications Department.
1. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, www.cdc.gov/ncipc/factsheets/teenmvh.htm.
2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,
March 20, 2008, www.cdc.gov/ncipc/factsheets/teenmvh.htm.
3. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, www.nhtsa.dot.gov. Click on “Traffic Safety” on the main toolbar, choose “New Drivers” in the sidebar, and then select the article labeled “Teen Drivers.”
4. National Driver Training Institute, www.usdrivertraining.com/forum/wordpress/?p=117.