A case for public driving ed

Issues related to teenage driving are very close to me. Several years back my brother ended up getting into an accident that endangered the lives of the majority of my nuclear family. I still remember the phone call I received from my father telling me to come home from work because my mom and little brother had to be sent to the emergency room. My brother never got the chance to receive enough driving practice during his high school years to qualify for a driving test and so he needed to continue practicing while attending college. On one such practice my mother had brought my two little brothers with her, blissfully unaware of the perils that would soon face them. My brother turned out of the college exit and towards our home. A drink spilled. My brother turned his head. The steering wheel turned with him. That was all it took. Our van turned off the road and slammed into a street sign. In an instant the windshield shattered and sprayed the unsuspecting passengers with a shower of small glass fragments. After they recovered from the initial shock of their sudden impact, they called for emergency services. The medical personnel that were sent out found some abnormalities that required further examination of my mother and one of my little brothers. Apart from the minor cuts that come with being showered with glass shards, they all turned out fine physically. Mentally however, my brother is not alright. He still hasn’t earned his license and my family is too afraid to talk to him about it. I’ve always thought about what I could’ve done to help him both before and after the accident but it’s all been wasted as I have never considered the true issue behind it all. I now believe that the true issue that caused my brother’s accident was the lack of proper and accessible driving education.

After looking at the facts, it is quite evident that someone needs to do something to prevent similar events. According to a blog post from the website for the law office of Steinberg, Goodman, and Kalish, male drivers from the 16-19 year old age group are roughly 3.7 times more likely to fall victim to an accident than men that are 30-59 years old. Female drivers from the 16-19 year old age group are roughly 2.8 times more likely to fall victim to an accident than their counterparts in the 30-59 year old age group. These both account for differences in time spent on the road by recording the rate of accidents per one hundred million miles. Anyone with any knowledge of statistics cannot disregard such vast differences. The law office claims that these differences are caused by differences in experience and maturity, and I would definitely support that assertion.

While it is now completely evident that there are issues facing today’s teens that put them at a higher risk of causing an accident than older and more experienced drivers, there are several different routes that could be taken to ensure the safety of these young individuals. Since the primary concerns are experience and maturity, the best route would be one that addresses those concerns without majorly inconveniencing anyone. The route I feel has the best chance to help young individuals would be one that ignores the maturity aspect. 

A solution involving the maturity aspect would require the minimum driving age to be altered which would cause far more issues than it would solve. For one, it would require standardized driving laws throughout the United States which would not only be seen as an overreach of the federal government by a significant proportion of the US population but would also neglect the fact that many driving laws reflect the diverse needs of the people living in different states. Altering the minimum driving age in any way would either risk endangering younger individuals or hinder the ability of older individuals to have available transportation depending on which direction it was moved. In short, it is impossible to account for the maturity aspect without causing more damage than it would reduce.

This leaves the experience aspect as the focus of my route. Experience is usually cultivated through years of practice and through a lot of trial and error. Unfortunately, trial and error requires error to occur and with inexperienced drivers it can end up causing an accident or even end up being fatal. But there is a way to artificially create experience. Driving experience is a combination of familiarity with the act of driving and associated knowledge. Familiarity can be obtained through actually driving but can also be obtained through simulations. Associated knowledge can be taught instead of obtained through practice to minimize risks.

The route I advocate may seem far from revolutionary as it has been tried before but I can assure you that it can be tweaked in a way that has the potential to save countless young individuals from dangerous accidents. As stated within an article in a local paper named The Orange County Register, there are two reasons for why many schools have chosen to scrap such programs. These reasons are that it is inessential for a student to enter college and it costs more than schools would like to spend.

The inessential aspect can be remedied by simply making it essential. Any state could make a driving education class a minimum graduation requirement. I’ll touch more on the best way this can be implemented later. The cost aspect can be lowered by allowing students to opt out of the class as long as they can provide proof that they completed a private driving education course, and perhaps passing an evaluation to make sure they’re held to the same standards as their peers that do not take a private course. 

How can this be implemented successfully? One word encompasses it best. Fluidity. By allowing variance within the courses in different school districts, a state can analyze the data on the rate of accidents and compare it to the cost of the course for the school district. This will allow a state to determine the most successful and cost effective way to provide adequate drivers education to all youth. A state can also pull the same data from private driving educations so as to gain some idea of what could be successful ways of teaching. By using the entire state’s education system as an experiment accurate data will definitely be collected, and other states would most likely create similar systems. This experiment has no control, as a control in this case requires students to put their lives at risk and essentially defeats the purpose.

I previously mentioned cost effectiveness of the program, as it is crucial to the compliance of citizens within school districts. This experiment will factor in the cost of implementing aids like simulations and driving instruction using actual vehicles on safe courses in some schools to see if they significantly lower the risk of accidents enough to warrant the extra cost.

The fluid aspect of this system comes with another unmentioned positive aspect. It allows for the courses to grow over time. The website for the law office of Steinberg, Goodman, and Kalish has a blog post that states how any form of multitasking, even using a hands-free phone, will greatly increase the risk of an accident. This is becoming increasingly relevant today as people are switching to using hands-free phones to contact people as an alternative to texting and driving that they view as safe. Making knowledge like this accessible is crucial to adequate driving education.

While it’s hard to say for sure, I can easily say that if my brother had been more experienced at driving he wouldn’t have made the mistake that endangered the lives of four of my family members.

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