A recent report presented by the Indiana BMV leads to the conclusion that teenagers who take an Indiana drivers education class are much more likely to be involved in a traffic accident than those who don't. Does this mean that the Indiana drivers ed is not effective and teens would be better off not taking the class or is there something else we miss? Is driver's ed the only thing to blame or should the whole Indiana graduated drivers license system be revised?
Sarah Meyer, the public affairs director of the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles told a group of law makes that a study conducted on drivers under the age of 18 shows that teen drivers who elected to take an Indiana drivers ed class had the crash rate of nearly four times that of those who did not take the class. Almost five percent of 51,000 teens who participated in a drivers education program had one or more traffic accidents, compared with one percent of 71.932 drivers without formal driving training.
"Why do we even offer driver's education?". This question was asked by Rep. Phil Hinkle, R-Indianapolis, after hearing the numbers.
Of course, when the information is presented this way, it does seem logical that drivers education is to blame for such high accident rates, but if you dig a little deeper, you will find that this is the failure of the whole system and you should not single out drivers education classes.
Up until July 2010, the Indiana graduated drivers license system remained virtually the same for the last couple of decades and has fallen far behind similar programs in other states. Most of other states have already significantly raised the minim age at which a drivers license can be attained and have introduced a number of additional requirements that must be met by youngsters. Just to give you an idea of what the differences are, here is a live example. In Indiana, you could choose to participate in a drivers education class if you wanted to obtain a learners permit at the age of 15. Taking a drivers education class also allowed you to skip Indiana permit testing, you just had to present a Certificate of Drivers Education (CDE) at the time of your application at the BMV. So basically, you end up with drivers who have their Indiana learners permits, but there is no guarantee that they even know the rules, as the CDE used to be issued upon student's enrollment in a drivers ed class, you did not even have to complete it before getting behind the wheel. If you compare this to California, where the minimum age for obtaining a learners permit is 15 years, 6 months, completion of a drivers education class and a DMV permit test are mandatory for everyone who is under 18 years of age. The graduated drivers license program in Maryland is even stricter, where everyone must go through the program, no matter the age.
The numbers presented by the BMV should be analyzed in the light of the graduated drivers license system and not just drivers education classes. You have to keep in mind that with the system that is currently in place, completion of a drivers education program allows younger drivers who have not been properly tested get behind the wheel and start driving. Hence, there are more chances for mistakes.
There is no doubt that the system is up for an update and we already saw the first step in July. Hopefully, additional measures will follow and ensure that an Indiana drivers license is issued only to a driver who has been properly prepared and tested on the matters of road rules and safe driving.