WEDNESDAY, Feb. 15 (HealthDay News) -- A U.S. survey reveals
that in states that don't require driver's education before getting
a license, about one-third of students skip driver's ed classes and
more than half fail to undergo any formal behind-the-wheel
Males, blacks, Hispanics and students with poor academic records
were especially unlikely to have received driver's ed or
behind-the-wheel training, according to the report published online
and in the March print issue of the journal
The findings show that "if a state doesn't require driver's
education, certain groups of kids are less likely to get it," said
study lead author Allison Curry, director of epidemiology and
biostatistics at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia's Center
for Injury Research and Prevention.
Rules about driver's education and training behind the wheel
vary throughout the United States. California and Maine, for
example, require drivers who get licenses under the age of 18 to
take driver's education, while Idaho sets the age limit at 17. Some
states, including Arkansas, New Jersey, South Dakota and
Mississippi, don't require supervised behind-the-wheel
The current report is based on the results of a 2006 survey that
included 1,770 high school students who had driver's licenses. The
students were asked about the kind of driver's education they had
The students lived in 34 states, of which 25 had driver's
Almost 80 percent said they'd participated in driver's
education: 84 percent in states that required it and 62 percent in
those that didn't. But the gap was bigger for some groups of
students, the researchers found.
Among Hispanics, the percentage of students who took driver's
education was 68 percent in states with the requirement, but only
29 percent in states without requirements. The respective numbers
were 88 and 53 percent for black students; 82 and 55 percent for
students in schools with lots of poor kids; 84 and 59 percent for
males; and 82 and 51 percent for kids who mostly received low to
Research suggests that some of these groups, such as poor kids,
Hispanics and blacks, are more likely to get into car accidents,
So why are certain groups of kids less likely to take driver's
education or get training on the road? Economics is one probable
factor, Curry said. "If you have to pay hundreds of dollars for
private driver's education, it might place a burden on your family
and become unmanageable."
Jean Thatcher Shope, associate director of the University of
Michigan's Transportation Research Institute, said that "the
findings are not particularly useful or surprising."
For one, she said, it's not unexpected that more kids take
driver's education in states that require it. However, "what may be
surprising is that so many teens have had driver's education in
states that do not require it," Shope said.
Overall, Shope pointed out, "the study does not tell us what
makes young drivers safer, which is the important question."
There's "scant or little evidence that driver education results
in safer drivers," although it does teach people about road rules
and basic vehicle handling, she said. As for behind-the-wheel
training, Shope said it's helpful, but supervised practice is more
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has details about
driver licensing systems in the United States.
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