California DMV tries new training methods to reduce teen car accidents
I am a baby boomer and a major rite of passage when I was a teen was getting your driver’s license. My birthday is in November and I was one of the youngest in my class so I watched all my friends get their licenses ahead of me. I couldn’t wait to drive!! The requirements for a teen to get their licenses were different in those days. To prepare for the written permit test we studied the California Drivers Handbook. Pretty dry reading. Of course that was before the Internet and YouTube. The California Department of Motor Vehicles now has it’s own YouTube channel! Teens learn how to apply for their driver’s license, the rules of the road and vehicle safety via videos. The DMV has even taken a page from the David Letterman show with a video entitled “The Top 10 Reasons for Failing the Driving Test!!” Of course it is recommended that you also read the handbook, but I have to say a video is a considerably more interesting way to prepare for the test.
In my day most high schools offered driver’s education as a school elective. My wife remembers her Physical Education teacher taught the driver’s ed class in her high school. There was a classroom component but on Saturday mornings students were assigned a time slot for the practical driving portion of the class. Sheila remembers her slot was about lunchtime and her teacher, Brenda Henderson, taught her what she said was one of the most important driving lesson she would ever learn; how to drive through a fast food drive thru lane!
As an Alameda Personal Injury Lawyer, I believe the driving regulations for teenagers have been a great safety measure. Today teens under the age of 18 applying for their license must complete a 30-hour driver education course prior to taking the written permit test. This can be done on-line. Then they must complete 6 hours of professional behind the wheel driver training and have completed 50 hours of practice with a California licensed driver over the age of 25 who will certify to the 50 hours of practice at least 10 of which were done at night. While some high schools still offer driver’s education as part of their curriculum, it is a rarity with the budget cuts. Today the cost of getting your drivers license has increased as well. Many of the courses can cost upwards of $350.
Upon completion of all the education and testing, drivers under the age of 18 earn what is termed a “provisional license” with 12 months of restrictions before they can earn their full California drivers license. During the initial 12 month period they are restricted from transporting anyone under the age of 20 unless accompanied by an adult. That means they cannot drive their friends unless there is an adult in the car with them. They also have a driving curfew between the hours of 11:00 p.m. to 5:00 am. Studies have shown that these laws have lowered the risk of serious injury accidents involving teens.
Sadly an unexpected outcome from these more restrictive laws for young drivers is that increasingly teens are waiting until they turn 18 to get their license and thereby avoid these hassles. California does not require adults over the age of 18 to take driver education classes or any behind the wheel training. You only need to pass the written and behind the wheel driving tests. The driving test does not even include the dreaded parallel parking component.
Maybe it is time for the California Department of Motor Vehicles to instigate stronger driving training laws for anyone applying for a license regardless of their age.
San Francisco Chronicle, September 27, 2013