Education

Parents, teens may have to foot bill for driver's ed classes

Posted June 3

— The budget passed by the state Senate last weekend eliminates state funding for driver's education courses at public schools statewide, starting next summer, meaning parents and teens might have to start footing the cost of the training.

State law requires 30 hours of classroom work and six hours of behind-the wheel instruction for anyone under 18 to get a driver's license.

The state picked up the whole tab for driver's ed until 2011, when budget cuts forced school districts to start charging fees for the classes.

Now, classes in Wake County cost teens $55. Eliminating the state subsidy altogether could drive the cost as high as the $300 to $400 charged for private instruction, unless districts are able to shuffle local funds around to cover some of the expense.

"I'm just wondering how they're going to pull that off with driver's ed being required for kids to get their permit," said Toni Talton, whose 15-year-old daughter is getting her permit. "I know a lot of families won’t be able to afford driver’s ed."

Destiny McClane, 17, said she isn't sure she could afford the higher cost but added that she can't afford not to have a license.

"My mom works a lot, so with me getting ready to get my license, it will help her a lot more when she's at work. My sisters will need rides from school," McClane said.

Devin Tanner, who oversees the driver's ed program for the Wake County Public School System, said studies show teen drivers who go through a graduated license program, including driver's ed classes, have fewer fatal accidents than those who don't and simply get their licenses after they turn 18.

"If families have to pay more, some families may opt to hold their kids back until they're 18 years old, and they become part of that statistic," Tanner said. "There’s no substitute for good instruction, especially when there’s no experience on the kids’ part."

Driving instructor Jimmy Ray said he likewise worries about increased fatalities among teen drivers in North Carolina if driver's ed becomes more of a luxury item.

"Is that a road we want to go down?" Ray asked.

22 Comments

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  • PowderedToastMan Jun 3, 5:40 p.m.

    Good. They should.

  • 50s Child Jun 3, 5:46 p.m.

    I have no problem with this at all. If "the families" can't afford $300-400, then "the families" can't afford auto insurance for the new driver.

    So the kid has to wait a couple of years. I'm thoroughly tired of "the families" bellyaching about the costs of "the families"!

    How can Destiny say with a straight face she "can't afford not to have a license" when she doesn't have a license, and yet, her life goes on? Oh, and there's this thing others pay for so your sisters can ride it. It's called a school bus.

  • itsnotmeiswear Jun 3, 5:49 p.m.

    Glad my children have gone through before this change, but the current program is woefully inadequate.

  • mep Jun 3, 5:52 p.m.

    GREAT NEWS... taxpayers should not be responsible for teaching kids to drive. Driving is a privilege... an expensive one at that. Driving is not a skill necessary for college so taxpayers should not be paying for it. There are PLENTY of privately operated driving schools available.

  • tracmister Jun 3, 6:14 p.m.

    I have no problem with this; but, this is another chunk of money that will come out of the pockets of the middle class as usual.

  • sinenomine Jun 3, 6:39 p.m.

    If the state no longer pays the cost of driver ed I'm going to guess that competition among private driving schools may bring down the cost which could wind up benefiting a lot of people. There's nothing magical, after all, about state provided driving instruction. In the place and at the time I grew up drivers ed was not mandatory in the public schools and only a few of my friends took it. I took drivers ed from the American Automobile Association and I think the quality of my instruction was as good or better than I could have obtained elsewhere.

  • Rebelyell55 Jun 3, 6:41 p.m.

    There should of been some cost, but this is out rageous. Private class for those who can afford it, and then the cost? Someone is getting ripped off. I agree, if ya can't afford the insurance you certainly shouldn't have driving previlages, that the problem now, those gettting temp. insurance, to get them, and then cancelling or letting it laps and then igorning the DMV to turn in them in. Drive while they can until they get caught, and then the fine ain't nothing. This does nothing but drive up insurance cost for the rest of us. Ya know it won't that long ago you didn't have to pay extra for underinsurance drivers.

  • sbr1963 Jun 3, 6:46 p.m.

    I'm sorry, but six hours of behind the wheel instruction is a joke! If families are going to have to foot the bill I hope the instruction is better than what is available now! When I took driver's ed it was a whole semester course. Half of the semester in class and half the semester behind the wheel and there was also a simulator class.Plus you practiced driving with your parents.

  • sinenomine Jun 3, 6:52 p.m.

    "Plus you practiced driving with your parents"; aye, there's the rub. All of us, even the best drivers, have areas which could stand improvement. Driving with a parent is often just a good way of having the teen perpetuate the parents' errors. I was very glad to have my kids, both of whom are well past their teen years, learn from a professional rather than from me.

  • RockMan Jun 3, 7:10 p.m.

    i think this is long overdue. driving is a privilege, not a right.

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