teen driverThe Iowa House in their education reform bill, HF 215,  passed a number of educational liberty items, one of the items would be the approval of parent-taught drivers education.  This is currently being debated in the conference committee, and it is something that the homeschooling community has wanted for years.  The editorial board of The Des Moines Register balks at that idea in a editorial they published over the weekend.

The legislation also dredges up an idea some parents have been unsuccessfully pushing for years: allowing them to teach driver’s education to their kids. Currently in Iowa, you can’t teach driver’s ed in a classroom without specific training and certification. Behind-the-wheel instructors (those who teach the in-car portion of the class) must complete training and obtain certification and authorization from two government entities.

Learning to drive isn’t like learning geometry. Not being able to identify an isosceles triangle isn’t going to get a child or anyone else killed. An uneducated driver puts lives in danger.

A parent may be a good driver. He may even have a workbook with tips on how to drive. That doesn’t mean he’ll be a good driving teacher. It doesn’t mean he’ll abide by Iowa law to cover everything from substance abuse to safely crossing railroad tracks.

Iowa law requires everyone under 18 years old to pass a driver’s education course to obtain a license for a reason: Society wants some assurances about training when it comes to something as serious as operating a vehicle on public roads.

News flash to The Des Moines Register – I learned far more about driving in the time I logged with my parents than I ever did in a driver’s education course.  I would suspect the same for most drivers.  The simple fact is this parents log more time with their children behind the wheel than any drivers’ education instructor ever does.  We are also the ones who pay for the car insurance and medical insurance for those student drivers.  Beyond the financial commitments for our student drivers we also love them and don’t want to see them get hurt.  There are some parents who would rather have someone else teach their child driver’s ed.  That’s fine – it’s about choice.

Completing a formal drivers’ education program does not mean a teen will be a safe driver.  There are some other practical reasons why this should remain in the education reform package.  Hat-tip to NICHE for the following list.

  1. A parent taught driver education course taken by correspondence allows more flexibility in scheduling.
  2. A parent taught driver education course taken by correspondence allows time spent time traveling to and from a course to be better used mastering the subject matter.
  3. Parents have the most invested in their child’s competency behind the wheel. They carry the liability and own the vehicle.
  4. The instruction proceeds at the student’s pace and not on a predetermined instructor schedule. For example, the student moves into traffic, the freeway, night driving, etc. when ready not because the instructor only has an hour or two left to teach the student.
  5. The parent knows what is to be taught and what the student is able to handle. In addition the student completing this program can be tested with a road test to verify proficiency.
  6. The smallest classroom size available – one on one – gives students the personal attention. The NHTSA recommends more parent involvement in driver education.
  7. Parents who go through the teaching sharpen their skills, heighten their awareness and use of safety practices such as wearing safety belts, leaving a greater following distance, and being more patient in traffic.
  8. The graduated licensing program in Iowa mandates 30 hours of driving instruction to be provided by the parent. The 2001 Graduated Driver License Study reports a drop in traffic convictions and crashes attributed to the new graduated licensing program.
  9. Driver Education programs provided by the districts are becoming more expensive. Course offered by correspondence are less expensive. Once this option is available in Iowa, the demand will increase the number of programs available and the fees will be competitive.
  10. Some school districts deny access to driver training classes because of limited class size. Allowing parents the option to use a correspondence program takes the strain off the district and lowers the cost of driver education in the state.

Photo credit: BlueMoon1975 via Flickr (CC-By-NC-ND 2.0)

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