Fatal crashes prompt calls for renewed driver's ed funding

Posted September 30, 2014

— Two Wake County students have died and a third was injured in recent weeks in crashes involving teen drivers. The rash of wrecks has prompted the North Carolina School Boards Association to begin lobbying for more funding for driver's education.

Under state law, anyone under age 18 who wants to drive must first take a driver's education course, either through a public school or paid for privately.

The state has, for decades, used Highway Trust Fund money to pay school districts to provide the classes, but lawmakers cut off all state funding for driver's education as of next July.

"It means a $26 million hit statewide to school districts," said Leanne Winner, director of government relations for the school boards association.

In Wake County alone, the funding cut amounts to about $3 million. Nearly 12,000 Wake County students took driver's education last year.

Michael Yarborough, a spokesman for the Wake County Public School System, said the district is looking at options to pay for driver's education, but no decisions have been made.

Lawmakers in recent years have allowed schools to charge up to $65 for the course to make up for funding cuts, but Winner said that doesn't come close to covering the actual cost of driver's education instruction, which often tops $300 per student.

After years of budget cuts, she said school districts don't have spare money to pay the difference. Districts could seek legislative approval to charge full price for driver's education, but that could keep lower-income students from taking the course.

The school boards association has asked the Child Fatality Task Force, which makes policy recommendations to lawmakers every year to reduce the number of deaths and injuries among children and teens, to call for reinstating driver's education funding in the budget.

A task force subcommittee gave the proposal favorable feedback Monday, but the full panel won't vote until November on whether to proceed with the recommendation.

"These are our youngest drivers. You want to make sure that they go through this program, that they just don't opt not to do it," Winner said. "We need to make sure that our roads – not only for them but for all of us – are as safe as possible."

Secretary of Transportation Tony Tata sounded a similar theme Tuesday when he issued a statement after the latest incident, in which a teen driver failed to stop for a stopped school bus and hit and injured a sixth-grader.

"Educating teen drivers on potential hazards behind the wheel is critical to the safety of our roadways," Tata said. "At NCDOT, we pledge to review possible safety improvements and driver's education messages with our partners at the Department of Public Instruction."

Rep. John Torbett, R-Gaston, who oversees transportation appropriations in the state budget for the House, said in an email to WRAL News that he is certain that lawmakers will reconsider the cut to driver's education when they reconvene next year.

Meanwhile, Lt. Jeff Gordon of the State Highway Patrol said parents need to present their teen drivers with different situations to prepare them for the road.

"Take them out on the interstates, take them on rural paved roads, put them through heavy traffic, put them through situations where it's raining, so they feel comfortable in a controlled environment with you sitting beside them, instructing them on how to handle situations when they get into it," Gordon said.


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  • Mike Kallam Oct 1, 2014
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    Drivers Ed should be taught and funded just like any other course in school. In a state which provides no suitable public transportation alternative potential drivers should be trained to get to school and eventually work safely. And for all those "throw money" naysayers fewer accidents in out state means lowers insurance premiums for all.

  • readme Oct 1, 2014

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    Ugghh. Stop with the age discrimination. 16 year-olds are plenty old enough to drive, just like 18 year-olds are old enough to drink. Don't punish them all for the actions of a few. The correct answer is not in drivers' ed though. If they are totally clueless, the DMV should catch it in their driving tests. That's what those tests are for after all and why we spend half a day waiting in line.

  • Fred Kozlof Oct 1, 2014
    user avatar

    Drivers are too young, not responsible enough. As for the $350...if they don't have that, then they likely are not financially responsible enough to own and maintain a safe car either. Taxpayers should not be paying for Drivers Ed. Driving is a privelege, not a right.

  • bdinota2 Oct 1, 2014

    just curious as to how many posters that are calling for no more funding of drivers ed, increased age to drive, no more driving to school, etc, had their drivers ed paid for by taxpayers, got their license at 16, and drove to school?? Maybe, we should teach our children to focus, obey the law, and not be in such a hurry. Turn off the phone, turn down the radio, minimize the number of passengers in a car.... And yes, having parents introduce driving to kids and not solely relying on the training that is offered is vital. But to me, I don't think taking driver's ed out of school is the answer.

  • xylem01 Oct 1, 2014

    My tax dollars should not be spent to keep your unattentive child alive!

  • John McCray Oct 1, 2014
    user avatar

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    Where's your proof that it has failed. While there has been failure rates as high as 59% on the knowledge part of the exam administered by DMV, most recently the rate has decreased to 33%. (

    However, since this is something required by the government, wouldn't having to pay the $350+ dollars for the training result in essentially adding a $350 tax to people learning to drive? What makes a driver at 18 years of age more safe than a driver at 17 years of age if they have the same amount of experience.

  • Kreader7 Oct 1, 2014

    I took drivers ed back when it was funded through the school. We had to watch gory videos of accident victims. This is one area I do support it being funded through the schools since it's in the interest of public safety.
    I took drivers ed at 14. Got a learners permit at 15 and the full license at 16. Which looking back, I do feel is a bit young. I know in other areas of the world you have to be 18 for a license. It's serious business driving a car since you could endanger others lives. I think we need to take a closer look at the ages of our new drivers. It's takes maturity to make smart decisions when driving.

  • Shane Taylor Oct 1, 2014
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    Makes sense to me...However, we are now living in a society of handouts thanks to Obama, so to make people EARN what they want is going to be a hard sale...But I agree 100%.

  • UNJUSTIFIED Oct 1, 2014

    Stop letting these kids drive to school.....We already pay alot in taxes to have a bus transportation system...Our local schools have more kids driving to school, or being driven to school by their parents...The busses are barely half full...And the traffic around the schools are horrendous....

  • Cheree Teasley Oct 1, 2014
    user avatar

    Renewed funding for drivers ed has nothing to do with the "rash of wrecks" in recent weeks. One thing would only have to do with the other if the teenagers who had not taken and passed driver's ed and/or if the teenagers had been affected by the less funding that hasn't hit the schools yet. If the teenagers had gone through driver's education then the training they recieved should be where we start our line of thought. It defies basic reasoning skills to relate funding that hasn't been cut yet to accidents happening now. It's actually disturbing politics. They haven't even buried the teenagers who died this week yet and they're reaching for $25 milli9on in it's wake. Bad form!