The Gutting of Driver's Education

In each of the previous two budgets drastic cuts were made in the Driver's Education program. Each county receives funds to pay for the program and with state cuts the counties have been stretched to the limit. Salaries for instructors have been slashed, worn out vehicles haven't been replaced and classroom materials are nonexistent.

The senate budget cuts 28 million from DPI's bus transportation in 2014-15 and transfers from the highway fund to DPI the 26 million Driver's Education fund. It then instructs DPI to decide how much of that to use for buses and how much for DE. In 2015-16 the 26 million DE fund (either from the Highway fund or DPI) is eliminated all together.

Most driver's education instructors are teachers and this is one way they supplement their incomes in order to make ends meet. With this income they are better able to remain in counties that provide little if any local teacher supplement rather than relocate to counties like Wake and Orange, leave teaching all together, or take positions out of state.

If parents are forced to pay hundreds of dollars for DE the number of young people taking the course will be drastically reduced. The number of 18 year olds with no driving experience that simply show up at the DMV and become fully licensed will be greatly increased. The number of unlicensed and uninsured 15-18 year olds driving illegally will be greatly increased. The number of fatal accidents will increase as will property damage accidents. The highway will be less safe for all of us and auto insurance rates will increase as well.

The graduated license system that begins with 14 and a half year olds taking a 30 hour class and driving six hours with an instructor, progresses through the learner's permit and provisional license, and concludes at 18 when drivers assume the same status as veteran drivers has worked well. It is shortsighted and irresponsible of the state senate to make these cuts. One has to wonder about their motivation.


Unfunded mandate

I wonder if Republicans even think about these things before they whip out their scalpel:

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."

I've got three kids relatively close in age. If I'd been forced to cough up $400 a piece for their driver's ed classes, I would have been furious.

This was

one of the very easiest things for NC GOP to privatize. Low-hanging fruit. Probably worth tens of thousands of dollars of campaign contributions.

Not that big of a deal for rich folks. Hurts poor the most (you know, the ones who need to learn to drive to maximize their education and employment opportunities...and the NC GOP wants no part of that).

"I will have a priority on building relationships with the minority caucus. I want to put substance behind those campaign speeches." -- Thom Tillis, Nov. 5, 2014

Rural areas? Other states?

Did someone ask one of idiots pushing this measure how driver's ed is supposed to work in rural areas?

There's no commercial driving schools outside of major metro areas. If they keep the legal requirements for getting a license, then the community colleges will need to start offering driving areas as a service, creating more expense for them and requiring parents to get their kids there after school hours.

Of course, they may just go ahead and nix the legal requirements for getting the license, going back to the "good old days" when, in rural areas, teens learned how to drive from their parents, passing down information on how to operate an expensive deadly machine via word of mouth like folk stories about Benghazi. I'm sure the insurance industry would just love that.

If you're curious, there's no national standard for driver's education, but only a set of Federal recommendations. NC appears to be joining government cutback states like Texas that leave the students to take driver's ed in an online course and get experience from their parents.

In the 1970s, 95 percent of eligible students nationwide received driver education, primarily through public schools. That number has dropped as public financing decreased and the courses shifted to private companies, said Allen Robinson, chief executive of the American Driver and Traffic Safety Education Association, a nonprofit group that represents traffic safety educators.

“Instead of being available to anybody who wants it, it is more readily available to those who can pay first,” Dr. Robinson said.

Peter Kissinger, president and chief executive of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, said that cutbacks had spawned “faster, cheaper, but not necessarily better programs.” Online programs, which are available in 15 states, he said, “are virtually unregulated.”

Rather than aspiring to be Texas, NC should be emulating Oregon.

One exception is Oregon, where state officials say that the driver education program has helped reduce teenage accidents and fatalities. Many safety experts say it is among the best programs in the country.

The Oregon curriculum includes classroom training, substantial supervised driving instruction and parental involvement. It focuses on risk assessment to help young drivers anticipate problems. The state also trains and certifies instructors, an area that has received little oversight.

Troy E. Costales, an executive manager for the Oregon Transportation Department, said: “We are seeing a reduction in citations. We’re seeing a reduction in crashes. And we are seeing a reduction in suspensions.”

Since it overhauled driver training about a decade ago, Oregon has had a reduction of more than 55 percent in the number of 16-year-olds behind the wheel when someone is killed or injured in a crash and a drop of almost 40 percent for 17-year-olds, said Mr. Costales, who is also chairman of the Governors Highway Safety Association, which represents state highway safety offices.

Teddy wonders about several things with this policy from the legislature. How much will the accident and death rate increase on NC highways with this new law? How much are each of those lives worth in dollars and cents to the legislature? But, most importantly, who in the legislature has a direct or indirect financial interest in private companies offering driver's education courses in person or online?

NCGOP Senators have lost their minds

Anti-safety, anti-driver, anti-student, anti-teacher, anti-parent, anti-education, anti-family, anti-police, anti-first responder...

All to save a few bucks in the state budget to pay for their tax cuts for the rich.

The Senate budget writers are absolutely insane.