Is High School Driver’s Education Enough?

Most teens want to enroll in driver’s ed courses, especially since completing the program will allow them to get their driver’s licenses earlier in most states. But will the courses give them all the skills they’ll require in order to safely navigate the roads?

Teens Get in More Car Accidents Than Adult Drivers

It’s a sad but long-standing fact that motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teenagers in the U.S. To put this statistic into sobering perspective, in 2013, an average of six children between the ages of 16 and 19 were killed from injuries sustained in car accidents every day. The fatality rate for teen boys is twice as high as it is for girls of the same age, but either way, the numbers will make you think twice about allowing your young teenagers to get behind the wheel.

Not All High School Driver’s Ed Courses Are Created Equal

If the numbers quoted above make it seem as though driver’s ed courses aren’t doing their part to contribute to teen driver safety, bear in mind that the regulations for these programs can vary greatly from state to state—or even from district to district. While all driver’s ed programs cover basic safety precautions and traffic laws, the amount of time actually spent behind the wheel can be minimal to nonexistent. Most of the time is spent on classroom instruction, and while the instructor’s tips and anecdotes might provide useful insight, they’re no substitute for actual driving.

What Else Can We Do to Help Teens Be Better Drivers?

There are other steps that parents can take to help teens become more confident and competent behind the wheel. If they have their learner’s permit, allow them to drive as much as possible (chances are they’ll want to anyway). Start with low-traffic areas, and introduce them to more urban situations as they grow more comfortable. Another option might be to enroll them in another driving course, especially one that uses a simulator rather than an actual vehicle. Simulation-based driving training is an option that allows teens to learn in a safe environment and that provides a more useful learning experience. Check your local message boards to find out if there are any simulator-based driving courses available near you.

If your teen wants to take driver’s ed, then, by all means, sign them up. However, don’t assume that the program will give teens all the tools they need to become safe and successful drivers. When it comes to road safety, there’s no such thing as being too prepared.

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