Many states require teenagers to attend driver’s education classes to learn the rules of the road before applying for a license. However, in Pennsylvania, teens who are at least 18 years old can apply for a license without any formal driver training as long as they have a signed paper from a parent or spouse.
A retired neurosurgeon is attempting to change that by lobbying the Pennsylvania state senator representing his district. The neurosurgeon, who also runs a classic car museum in Philadelphia, notes that many teenagers he treated during his career had sustained injuries from car accidents which may have been prevented by better driver education.
Importance of Driver’s Education Classes
There is evidence indicating that driver’s education classes lead to fewer teen driving accidents. According to a 2015 study from the University of Nebraska, teen drivers who did not participate in an education course were 75 percent more likely to obtain a traffic ticket. Uneducated drivers were also 16 percent more likely to get in an accident and 24 percent more likely to be killed or injured in an accident.
State Driver’s Education Laws
There are no federal standards mandating driver’s education for teens, so the matter rests with the states. Pennsylvania laws for driver’s education are lenient. Those under the age of 18 must complete a driver’s education course in order to obtain a driver’s license. For 18 and 19-year-olds, all that is required is a statement signed by a spouse or parent claiming the individual spent 65 hours behind the wheel with that parent or spouse. No other proof is required, and the individual can then obtain a license by passing the driver’s license exam and road test.
This is a stark contrast to other states’ laws for driver’s education. Delaware teen drivers must complete 30 hours of driver’s education in a classroom and then seven hours practicing with a certified instructor before obtaining a learner’s permit. New Jersey requires six hours of behind-the-wheel training.
Why is Driver’s Education Lacking?
Back in the 1970s, more than 90 percent of this country’s teenagers had access to driver’s education classes in public schools. As school standards changed and funding became scarce, many of these high school programs were eliminated. Unfortunately, safety has taken a back seat in many states, including Pennsylvania.
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