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Experts: Parents Are Best Driving Instructors For Their Teens

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gail massari
RALEIGH, N.C. — A recent study from the National Safety Council shows North Carolina ranks second in the nation when it comes to deadly accidents among drivers ages 16 to 20.

So, who should teach teenagers how to drive? Some parents rely on driver's education, but driving instructors say driver's education is just the beginning and that parents need to take the wheel when it comes to the process.

"Nobody should expect driver's ed to take someone who knows essentially nothing and turn them into a savvy, experienced driver in a very brief period of time," said Rob Foss, director of the UNC Highway Safety Research Center. "You can't do that."

Foss said that it is up to parents to spend a lot of time in the car with their teens as they learn to drive and that is exactly what Gail Massari is doing with her daughter, Glynnis McIntyre.

"After a year of having my permit, I think I'll be a lot more prepared to drive on my own," Glynnis said.

Even though she completed driver's education in the fall, Glynnis said she still gets nervous sometimes when she is the car.

"I don't always know what's going to happen," she said. "It's good to have my parents there to help me."

"She really got nominal time on the road with the driving part," Massari said. "There's no way that would have been sufficient to get a license."

Graduated licensing picks up where driver's education leaves off. Students get a driving permit and for a year, they drive with a parent or another qualified adult.

Foss said that since graduated licensing began in 1997, crashes are down 34 percent for 16-year-old drivers and 18 percent for 17-year-old drivers.

The intent of the graduated license law is for parents to teach their teens how to drive.

Driver's education is about the basics, said Lorraine Jordan, who owns Jordan Driving School in Raleigh.

"Everybody seems to think you do six hours and you're supposed to be a driver," Jordan said. "That's not the way it works."

Wake County schools, a number of private schools and individual families contract with Jordan to teach about 10,000 new drivers every year.

When students leave the Jordan Driving School, the instructor gives parents a checklist to show them what their teenagers need to work on. The school said parents are often the best teachers because they know their children better than anyone.

The Department of Transportation gives the Department of Public Instruction $32 million each year to administer driver's education. About $245 per student buys 30 hours of class time and just six hours of driving time.

"All we can do is show them what they need to learn to take with them from there," Jordan said. "It becomes the parent's responsibility to work with that student after we've gotten them six hours."


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