AAA wants NC to refocus drivers ed curriculum

Posted April 25, 2012

Student driver, driver's education class

— AAA Carolinas went before North Carolina lawmakers Wednesday and criticized the state school system for not doing enough to prepare student drivers when it comes to driving safety.

A recent report from the Governor's Highway Safety Association ranked North Carolina second in the country for the number of 16- and 17-year-old deaths on the roads during the first six months of 2011. There were 17 deaths; only Texas had more with 26 fatalities.

Although AAA applauded the state for its graduated licensing, anti-texting and traffic safety laws, it told the state Program Evaluation Oversight Committee that more emphasis needs to be placed on safe driving in the state’s driver's education curriculum.

Tom Crosby, president of the AAA Carolinas Foundation for Traffic Safety, said that current state curriculum does talk about safety but that it is too broad and gives instructors too much leeway in what they teach.

"They're not precise enough in teaching driving behavior," he said. "It's not standardized."

For example, the curriculum includes teaching students about oil changes, road design and which cars sell better than others – none of these things, AAA says, helps teens become safer drivers.

"These may be interesting, but they have nothing to do with how to drive," Crosby said. "Teaching proper driving behavior – emphasizing what to do on the road – is a lot more important than figuring out that the first thing people look at when they go to buy a car is the color of it."

The group wants North Carolina to refocus its curriculum on safety and standardize that throughout the state.

AAA wants NC to refocus drivers ed curriculum AAA wants NC to refocus drivers ed curriculum

Lawmakers say that the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction is already in the process of reviewing the driver's education curriculum and is working on a report that should be ready in June on its findings

Last year, DPI developed a Driver's Education Advisory Committee to help with the changes. It also started a pilot program that allows a uniform driver's education course to be taken online.

"They're kind of criticizing something right now that's kind of in a development process, because it doesn't exist, but that's one of the steps we did take last year – standardizing that curriculum all across the state," said Sen. Ralph Hise, R-Mitchell, a member of the Program Evaluation Oversight Committee.

"Despite some criticisms, I do think we do an incredible job with driver's ed here in this state," he added.

Another recommendation from AAA is for North Carolina to bring its driver's education programs in line with the federal standard.

Right now, the state requires student drivers to spend six hours behind the wheel and 30 hours in the classroom.

The national standard is 10 hours behind the wheel and 40 hours in classroom.

How much that would cost will be part of the report in June. It's unclear where that money would come from. Last year, lawmakers cut $5 million from driver's education.

Still, parents say that there is some value in teaching teens what's under the hood as well as other aspects of the state's current curriculum.

Amelia Williams' 17-year-old daughter recently got her learner's permit.

"I know they have the head knowledge, but they need a lot of practice," Williams said. "I've also come to appreciate that they also need to know what's under the hood. They need to know that (a car) is not a toy. It's not an accessory like the commercials make it out to be. It's actually a machine, and a machine that you can actually kill people with."


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  • williamawarner Apr 30, 2012

    As one of the states who are on the other end of the statistics in the number of Teen deaths behind the wheel (although ANY is too many) I want to say that North Carolina's program spends a majority of the education on those things that lead teens to make safer choices behind the wheel. It is a testiment to their educational process that they ALSO find time to include such additional "life-long" items like taking care of an automobile, or even knowing how to choose one. Like the mother states on the news release, vehicles aren't toys. They need proper care to properly take care of their drivers.
    It is unfortunate that AAA's message seems to lead one to believe that NC schools are providing a dis-service to their children. Bill Warner - Oregon Driver Education.

  • homefree Apr 27, 2012

    "We are killing our kids" what a poor choice in words in that radio comm. Seems like there is more to this than meets the eye. Who is pushing and why. As parents we should not rely on the system to teach our kids every single thing. I plan to help my daughter to drive and don't expect the school to teach the common sense from a book. I don't understand why we continue to punish our children at that age to learn to drive. I have a refugee from Berma that works for me....he can't speak a drop of english....within 6 months of being in our country he has his DL and a new car. The guy has torn up several pieces of equipment because he has no understanding of common sense about driving. How in the heck is that fair.

  • ajpettitt Apr 26, 2012

    We all are forgetting one thing as parents where do our children learn their first impressions of driving and what driving do while driving. Their "Parents" the reason kids today, text, change radio stations, put on make up and a 100 others things to numerous to mention is they learned it was 2-15 years from their adult leaders including parents. Do not say drivers ed is not enough, until all current adult drivers learn to set better examples for young passengers who are always observing what an adult does nothing will improve. Children are what they are taught/observe, this includes driving. Quit preaching and complaining about what is wrong and learn to correct what you have control over, yourself. Enough of my soapbox, correct yours and I will do the same.

  • imtiredofit Apr 26, 2012

    I see nothing wrong with learning about the workings of cars and the maintenance required as part of a driver education course. But I do wish they would teach turn signal usage and road courtesy also, like allowing people to merge onto I-40 without running the merging vehicle off the road or speeding up to cut the merging vehicle off. Or how about not tailgating the driver in front of you? Many times I feel like I am towing the car behind me because they are so close to my bumper. How about road rage? We seem to have some sort of road rage incident in the news every few weeks here in N.C.
    If North Carolina would enforce these laws/rules and give tickets to the violators the city and state coffers would be a lot richer from the fines collected from the violators. Turn signal usage and road courtesy in North Carolina by drivers is pathetic.

  • JustOneGodLessThanU Apr 26, 2012

    Like everything else, education is the answer.

    I would like to take this education campaign further and say that everyone should have to take the Full Written Driver's Test every time they renew their license.

    It would save many lives and help keep-the-peace on the roads.

  • JustOneGodLessThanU Apr 26, 2012

    @cwood3, I agree with you. How cool is that?! :-)

  • Z Man Apr 26, 2012

    fredk - I saw a Discovery Channel special on the Autobahn. The reason people are not wrecking each other even at those tremendous speeds is because they are paying attention. That's the big difference between here and there. People here multitask w/driving and it's not only annoying to other motorists (well, to me anyway), it's unsafe. People in Germany concentrate on the driving task and it's the only task they do when they do it.

  • I know some stuff Apr 26, 2012

    Thank you AAA. Drives ED sucks here.
    Where does the money come from for more hours (car & classroom)?
    From the STUDENT I hope. If you can't afford it, then you likely shouldn't be driving and all the responsibility that comes with that.
    In Germany, it costs about $1500 to get your license. They take driving very seriously over there, and it results in a higher skill level.

  • cwood3 Apr 26, 2012

    Teen deaths are caused by cell phones, changing radio stations after every song, no seat belts, speed, paying attention to friends instead of the road, speed, texting,...In addition, I'm sure driver's ed is not doing enough to complete the job. That is the parents job!

    Parents must continue wherE the state leaves off. If a parent is expecting the state to do all the training, there's the problem. PARENTS MUST ASSUME CONTROL & TEACH DRIVING SAFETY!!! This requires spending time with these children!! It is their job-not Bevvie and driver's ed teachers. Of course, those that need this message are probably not on here.

    I'm sure some of you want more driver's ed. I do too-done by the parents-not the state!! That's why the Legislature passed a bill requiring parents riding with their children before they get the unrestrickted lisence.

    In other words, PARENTS-DO YOUR JOB! SAVE YOUR KIDS! Do not buy them a pretty fast car-by them a safe clunker, and let them earn a nice car!!

  • Z Man Apr 26, 2012

    In other news, the governor of the great state of North Carolina (The Bev) is pushing the republican legislature to raise the state sales tax to an even 250%. The Bev insists this is necessary to pay for an upgrade to drivers education. The Bev said she wants to increase the number of drivers ed teachers from the current number of 15 to 3,550. She said if more than that are needed that she is positive the residents of the great state of North Carolina would be receptive. The Bev says, 'after all, it's for the children.'.