Should the Lawmakers Pull the Plug on North Carolina Drivers Ed?
The lawmakers in North Carolina are discussing the possibility of ending the state funding of drivers education classes. At the moment, the state pays the full amount for every student who goes through drivers ed prior to obtaining a drivers license, which costs over $30 million a year.
Right now, if you are under 17 years of age and you want to obtain a North Carolina drivers license, you have to complete a state-approved drivers education program. Drivers ed classes are offered by high schools who either develop their own drivers ed programs or hire an outside contractor to perform the job for them. The class must contain at least 30 hours of classroom instruction and 12 hours of driving with an instructor.
Unlike most other states, North Carolina subsidizes drivers education classes and pays for every teenager who chooses to go through the class. However, the state still does not have a uniform curriculum for the program and does not conduct constant monitoring and testing of the drivers education services offered by high schools. There is no strong evidence that the current North Carolina drivers ed set up is actually working to reduce the number of traffic accidents among teen drivers.
The lawmakers want to cut the state funding to the program so the first time license or permit applicants would have to pay for drivers ed out of their own pocket. On average, completion of a state-certified course would cost around $300 for every student, which is considered to be too much by the public.
At the moment, North Carolina is one of only 8 states that provide state funding to drivers ed programs. Most of the states around the country make the student pay for the class, which has some additional benefits. Students who pay for the class out of their own pocket are more dedicated to passing the course, as the price of the failure is too great. More attention at the class usually means better drivers in the end, which is the whole point of taking drivers education.
A good solution to the current problem could have been partial funding of North Carolina drivers ed classes and more involvement from the state when it comes to monitoring the level of services rendered. For example, students could pay a third of the price, and the state would fill in with the other two thirds. Paying this amount would make most students realize that drivers ed is not cheap and that not paying attention in the class will have financial consequences. At the same time, the state should start taking steps towards developing a state-wide curriculum that would be observed by all North Carolina driver education providers.