My eldest child turned 15 last week. Everyone in North Carolina knows what that means . . . it is learner’s permit time. Unfortunately, however, we were not able to run over to DMV on his birthday and get his permit. We are still working on some prerequisites. If someone near and dear to you is approaching this milestone birthday, here is what you need to know.
School is back in session across North Carolina, but many high school students and their parents may be disappointed that driver’s education is not. Driver’s education has long been a staple of the high school experience in this state. I vividly recall my afternoon class in the Northwood High School auditorium with driving instructor Ed Kitchen. I can see him now with his foot perched by the passenger-side brake as we drove the rural roads of Chatham County. What has interrupted this rite of passage at some North Carolina high schools?
Fifteen-year-old Laura Yost died on September 23 from injuries she sustained after the teenage driver of the car she was riding in turned left in front of an oncoming dump truck. A few days later, fifteen-year-old Braden Rock died after his 17-year-old sister turned left in front of an oncoming car. The next morning, 11–year-old Michael Burgess was walking across the street to board his school bus when he was struck by a car driven by a 16-year-old and seriously injured. Many have questioned in the wake of these events how such injuries might be prevented in the future.
Some have raised concerns about the legislature’s decision last session to eliminate state funding for local driver’s education programs beginning with the 2015-16 fiscal year. Yet all of the teenager drivers involved in these accidents successfully completed driver’s education, and it obviously did not inoculate them from negligent driving. Perhaps more such accidents would occur if there were no formalized driver’s education training. Unfortunately, despite the millions spent on driver’s education programs in North Carolina every year for decades, the simple truth is that we have no idea whether driver’s education has any effect on teen driving safety.