A bill that would require all new drivers in South Carolina between the ages of 15 and 20 to pass a driver's training course is coming up for debate this week at the Statehouse.
The Senate Transportation Committee is scheduled to work on the bill Wednesday morning.
The bill would also require anyone who's 21 or older who's never held a driver's license to pass an eight-hour defensive driving course.
Driving instructor Mitch Oates says, "When I talk to students, they learn most of their bad habits from their parents. They roll through stop signs. They don't look over their shoulders for turns. They use bad turning techniques and so forth."
He says there's a big difference between what a parent teaches a child and what a professional driving instructor teaches, whether it's technique or state laws. "A lot of times, parents really were taught by their parents and they don't necessarily know the law. They can just kind of make it from one place to another but they're not necessarily good drivers," he says.
But if the bill becomes law, that would mean an added expense for families with teenagers. Sen. Shane Massey, R-Edgefield, sponsor of the bill, says, "I understand the concerns about cost, but I do think that we have an obligation to ensure that we train people as best we can before we send them out on the roadways.
"It could cost a whole lot more if our novice drivers are not adequately trained," he says. "It could cost more in insurance costs, if damage results to property or injuries to people, or it could cost a whole lot more if you actually end up with a fatality."
There's conflicting evidence about whether passing a formal driver's education course makes someone a better driver.
Researchers at the Texas Transportation Institute found that teenagers in Texas who were taught to drive by their parents are almost three times more likely to be involved in fatal crashes than those getting professional driving instruction. Recent studies in Oregon and Nebraska also found that driver education is successful.
But a study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says about formal driver education, "Scientific evaluations indicate that it does not produce safer drivers; that is, drivers less likely to be in crashes than comparable drivers without formal training."
Sen. Massey says he wants to look at all the evidence when the bill comes up for debate. "I'm just trying to make our roads a little bit safer," he says.
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