Most of us associate getting a driver's license with the completion of a driver's education program, but a new study reports that not as many teens are receiving driver's ed as one might assume. The report, which was published in the journal Pediatrics, has found that more than one in five U.S. teens never took driver's education before getting their licenses.
The research team behind the study surveyed more than 1,700 high school students from 34 states, 25 of which have a driver-education requirement. The states that did not have a driver's ed requirement resulted in lower rates of teens going through driver's education.
The researchers noted that teens who do not complete driver's ed are not necessarily less safe drivers. It's also not clear whether increasing the rates of driver education will lead to fewer crashes. The researchers would, however, like to improve the numbers in the states that don't have requirements. Allison Curry, the study's lead author and a researcher at the Center for Injury Research and Prevention at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, told Reuters: "More than one in three teens in these states still aren't getting driver's ed."
Curry also mentioned that there is increasing interest among researchers to improve and update the driver's education curriculum, as it has remained largely unchanged since its implementation in the mid-1950s. The National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) has provided recommendations to update driver's education programs across the country. According to the NHTSA's website, they now send experts at a state's request to analyze and make recommendations to improve the driver education program. This, coupled with continuous supervised practice driving, is what researchers believe will keep teen drivers safe on the road.
The recent scrutiny on improving driver education comes at an important time for teen drivers nationwide. A recent study by the Governor's Highway Safety Association demonstrates an increase in deaths of 16 and 17-year-old drivers during the first half of 2011. Teen driver deaths increased by 11 percent between January through June of 2011, as compared with the previous year's statistics. Should the report for the second half of 2011 reveal a continuous trend, it would mark the end of eight consecutive years of declining fatalities among teen drivers.