There are three basic principles behind these suggestions:
1) There is the need to establish an effective screening device for identifying those persons who are unfit to be given the privilege to drive.
2) The beginning driver should be required to spend the necessary time and effort to become qualified for a license.
3) A program needs to be established which will motivate a licensed driver to maintain a safe driving record.
The minimum age for obtaining an instruction permit shall be 16
If we adhere to the concept that a person should demonstrate sufficient skill and knowledge for the safe performance of the driving task, then the minimum age requirement should apply to the instruction permit rather than the regular operator’s license. This provision should discourage many young people from learning to drive illegally so that they might obtain a driver license the very day they become eligible for one.
Based on the experience of teachers and studies on growth and development, no you under the age of sixteen should be eligible for an instruction permit. The term "silly sophomores" did not come about by chance. Therefore, any formal or informal driver training provided should have a better chance for influencing behavior patterns at the junior year rather than the sophomore year.
In today’s society, there are really no valid reasons for 15 and 16 year olds to drive on their own. These young teenagers now use cars primarily for cruising around, and in many cases, they use cars for illegal activities such as drug abuse. The reason for working is more apt to be for supporting the use of a car which usually results in lower grades. This age group just does not appear ready to begin making the judgments required by the driving task.
The instruction permit shall be held for a period of six months
To become a competent and responsible driver of a motor vehicle requires that a person spend considerable time and effort learning the necessary laws, safe driving practices, and traffic solving skills. After all, driving is primarily a mental and social task. Therefore, all beginning drivers need sufficient time to practice drive a minimum of one hundred hours with licensed drivers.
Beginning drivers under the age of twenty years shall be required to spend six months practicing under the supervision of experienced drivers. In this period of time, teenagers should be able to gain the necessary experiences for handling most of the traffic situations they will face as a licensed driver. They will have also sufficient time to reflect on the responsibilities involved.
This requirement is also based on the recognition, by both young people and teachers, that the formal training sessions now provided are just not adequate. It would provide a greater incentive for parent involvement. And, most important, there would be little or no incentive for the "quickie courses" that focus mostly on how to pass the official road test.
An approved driver education course is required
All beginning drivers must have completed satisfactorily an approved driver education course in order to become eligible to obtain an operator’s license. Course standards and teacher qualifications shall be established and administered by the appropriate governmental department.
A standardized road test shall be included as a part of the approved course. Most current on-road tests are maneuver oriented, and are more measures of basic operational skills along with the application of traffic laws. So, they fall short of measuring the safe driving skills of perceiving and responding to traffic situations. A record of such tests shall be maintained on file for a period of five years.
The first driver license shall be provisonal
The first regular operator’s license, issued at any age, shall be provisional or probationary. It shall be limited to a period of two years. The driver licensing department shall establish and administer the required provisions.
During the first two years of driving, a driver’s record should be looked at carefully to determine what bad habits and attitudes are being practiced. Suspensions and assignments to driver clinics need to be authorized when the record warrants. This is the time when a driver improvement program can have the greatest psychological impact.
Official research and evaluation reports are required
An official traffic safety research board should be established with representatives form appropriate governmental agencies and at least one university. This board should be adequately financed and authorized to conduct a program of research and continuous evaluation.
The data collection system should be improved to provide better objective information for measuring specific enforcement and educational programs. The board shall make regular reports to the legislature and departments involved with traffic safety activities. These can serve as a basis for making better decisions by government officials. It will also provide better accountability.
It is hoped that those interested in or responsible for traffic safety programs will give these suggestions serious consideration. They certainly will provide for more adequate training and experience for beginning drivers before they are licensed to drive solo. With proper support, they are probably politically feasible.
Warren P. Quensel Assistant Professor Emeritus Illinois State University