The benefits of Driver Education have long been debated, particularly since the famous, or infamous, DeKalb County, Georgia, Driver Education Demonstration Project was released some 20 years ago. If you are unfamiliar with the findings of this study, here is a brief synopsis. The DeKalb Study, the largest study of driver education of its time, concluded that students who took driver education received no long-term benefit related to crash reduction when compared to students who had no formal training. It also claimed that course graduates were not the highly skilled, incident-free drivers the general public assumed them to be. This certainly seems to be counter-intuitive- how could students who took Drivers Ed not perform better after classroom and behind-the-wheel training than those without any formal instruction?
Well, there are many questions related to how the DeKalb study was conducted which have current researchers reviewing the accuracy of the results. In attempt to bring clarity to this issue, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety sponsored research to examine driver education (DE) in Manitoba and Oregon. Using several independent studies, which incorporated a variety of evaluation designs and approaches, the findings suggest that driver education is effective in enhancing driving knowledge and is likely associated with reducing both crashes and traffic citations. While the study results are favorable for driver education, the safety impact is small in magnitude and correlates only to the program evaluated. Nonetheless, it provides a foundation for building effective driver education programs, which we are committed to do here at AAA!.
Moving forward, there is more work to be done. We need to make sure we are incorporating evidence-based practices in our curriculums and teaching so that we are connecting with students in meaningful and informative ways. We need to promote positive behavior, not just build knowledge. Driver education is a life skill that is used throughout the student’s life and can make a true, positive impact on safety.
Thank you for subscribing to The Accelerator and we hope you enjoy all the information this issue has to share. This edition deals with the very important subject of driver education; how this is presented in the classroom and behind the wheel is of vital importance to keep the roads safer for all of us. Feel free to post your comments on our new Driver Training Forum – we’d love to hear from you. If you would like to review the report I mentioned above, you can find it on the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety’s website, AAAFoundation.org.
Have a colorful fall and, as always, thank you for trusting AAA to help you make our roads safer.
Director, Driver Training and Student Auto Skills