New fee is keeping students out of driver's ed

Posted March 13, 2012

Student driver, driver's education class

— Driver's education used to be provided free in all North Carolina high schools, but state lawmakers cut $5 million from the program last year, saying schools could make up the money by charging a fee of up to $45.

School officials say the fee is keeping thousands of students out of the program. 

“There was no problem filling classes prior to this,” Broughton High School driver’s education teacher Beth Parsons said.

Parsons used to teach two classes a month, but it has been cut to one.

Reginald Flythe, driver’s education coordinator for Wake County schools, said enrollment numbers were steady until the fee was put in place last September.

“As of Sept. 1, we’ve had about a 20 percent reduction overall in the number of students who have entered the classroom phase of driver education,” Flythe said.

In North Carolina, teens have to go through driver's education in order to get a learner's permit. After that, they spend a year driving under supervision before being eligible for a full license.

Arthur Goodwin with the University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center said the process, called graduated licensing, has significantly reduced deaths among teen drivers.

“One of the main factors why teens get in so many crashes is just inexperience,” Goodwin said. “That full year of driving with mom or dad is really critical for getting the experience you need to be a safe driver.”

Goodwin thinks the fee might be encouraging teens to wait until they turn 18, when they can skip driver's education completely.

“At that point, you can just go out and get your adult license, and you don't have to go through the permit phase,” Goodwin said.

Flythe hopes that isn’t the case.

“Just because they’re 18 doesn’t mean they’re going to be any more safe,” Flythe said.

Fee is keeping students out of driver's ed Fee is keeping students out of driver's ed

Mecklenburg County's driver's education director Connie Sessoms said about a third of the state’s school systems decided to charge the fee. He says many of those that didn’t impose a fee are limiting enrollment because they’re running out of money for the program.

Sessoms said lawmakers should repeal the fee and find a steady funding source, like a $5 surcharge on all North Carolina license plates.

“They’re out there on the road with all of us. So, it behooves all of us to train these people, and it behooves every person in the state to support that,” Sessoms said.

On Tuesday, the North Carolina Child Fatality Task Force's Teen Road Safety Research panel, which Sessoms sits on, voted to recommended lifting the fees.

Parsons said she knows it could be tough to talk lawmakers into any new fees in an election year, but driver’s education is a smart investment.

“If they're going to be out there driving anyway – and they are – then at least let us give them what training we can,” she said.

The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction does not track the number of students who enroll in driver’s education statewide, even though state law mandates that all state high schools offer a state-approved drivers’ education curriculum. 


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  • Alexia.1 Mar 15, 2012

    "You should pay every time you take it." --gingerlynn

    Sounds good in theory, but then the state would just use that as a means of collecting more tax revenue. I would think a better solution would be to force a student who fails to wait 30 days before taking it again. This encourages the student to improve and avoids waste.

  • gingerlynn Mar 15, 2012

    When my daughter got her license there was a guy over 18 in there for the third week in a row (according to the DMV guy). You can go back every day and retake the test until you pass it. And you only pay.....when you pass it. This is ridiculous. You should pay every time you take it.

  • justincaseur2 Mar 14, 2012

    "Education should be like toll roads the people who use them should be the ones who foot the bill." - Superman

    That should be the tag line for someones bid for Governor. Heck, that should be the tagline for major changes in all government branches. Make those who use the resource responsible for paying for it. Education should be like toll roads the people who use them should be the ones who foot the bill.If people don't want to pay, they don't get the resource.

    I like it. Unnecessary programs would go away because of disuse, money would be saved all around.

    I call it "Government A La Carte" - only pay for what you use.

  • superman Mar 14, 2012

    Wonder where they got those $100 tennis shoes--???? If a student can make 80% why should they waste their time and the instructors time taking a class they dont need? Usually a student who already is proficient in the subject just tends to be a trouble maker in class as well as taking up space that someone else could occupy.

  • superman Mar 14, 2012

    And at the same time these students are carrying a $500 Itouch cell phone. Parents have 3 SUV's, cable tv and all the rest. Do you know any child under the age of 12 who doesnt have a MP3 player and a cell phone? If you cant afford $45 how do you think you can afford high price auto insurance and gas? You just happen to have an extra car in the driveway so they have something to drive. Give up your children for adoption and get a dog or cat that doesnt need drivers education. If they dont pay the fee who you think is paying? Education should be like toll roads the people who use them should be the ones who foot the bill.

  • whatusay Mar 14, 2012

    The tax payers should not have to pay for students to take drivers education, there should be a fee to cover the expense of the instructor, the car rental and insurance, and the gasoline. Liberal socialists however believe it should be paid for by taxes, like everthing else.

  • ezrilouwho Mar 14, 2012

    QUOTE::Whose brillian idea was it that you did not have to take drivers ed in order to get a license? In most states drivers ed is MANDATORY. I can't believe they would just hand you a license whe you turn 18. skblaine March 14, 2012 10:55 a.m:: END QUOTE

    They don't just give it to you at 18- you still have to pass the written exam, the eye exam, and the driving test. Oh, and you have to pay for all of that.

    My son just did drivers ed. The fee is not huge. It is a reasonable amount. It isn't like they are charging you a couple of hundred dollars for it.

    Driving is a privilege, not a right.

  • OneLove Mar 14, 2012

    $45 is not that much for a Drivers' Ed class! Drivers' Ed is a drivers education course....why should the school NOT cut that expense and pass on to the parent?? My son took it just this year and couldn't even attend the FIRST class until that money was paid. Also, they give them a "test" to see how much they know.... and if they make an 80 or above they could skip the class! STUPID!!

  • delilahk2000 Mar 14, 2012


  • delilahk2000 Mar 14, 2012