You have heard before that driver education is not effective. You will read in the opposing counterpoint that driver education is not effective. (download full issue in PDF format) Why is that?

Part of the explanation is that researchers and traffic-safety professionals have used erroneous research design to evaluate driver education. Using fatalities as a comparison between trained and untrained drivers is an inappropriate approach. The reason they cannot be used in a random experiment is that there are too few fatalities to produce significant results.

The only valid, random evaluation of driver education has been the DeKalb study. When traffic crashes are used as a measure of effectiveness, the DeKalb study showed that, among those licensed to drive and who had taken driver education, accidents were significantly reduced during the first six months. The estimated magnitude of reduction ranges from 10-20 percent, depending upon control over outside variables.

Too often, comparisons are made of students who have not taken driver education with those who have taken driver education. Those who completed driver education obtained a license and were driving while those who did not complete a driver education program were not driving. When researchers do not control for exposure rates, how can you compare accident rates of two groups that are not equal that have different exposure rates?

The high initial rate of accidents is due to the inexperience of new drivers. The duration of benefit in the DeKalb study was limited to six months. The first six months of driving is the greatest risk for all new drivers and is where the accident experience is the highest. Studies conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety have demonstrated that the accident rate drops by two-thirds in the first 700 miles of driving.

If not driver education, then what? Without formal driver education meeting some specified set of requirements, instruction of new teenage drivers would be left to family, friends or schools operating under no specific requirements.

When asked, the majority of parents favor driver education. Driver education depends on well-prepared teachers teaching safe driving practices using the best available teaching techniques and curricula.


Allen Robinson, CEO, ADTSEA