Researchers with the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) have determined that Texas teenagers taught to drive by someone other than professional driver education instructors are more likely to be involved in serious traffic crashes. In fact, the study found that after supervisory and Graduated Driver License restrictions are removed, parent-taught drivers are nearly three times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than are young drivers taught by commercial or public school driving instructors.
The study was conducted by TTI for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and involved analysis of 1.4 million driver records, a mail survey of young drivers and nine focus groups of teen drivers, their parents and driver education instructors.
“What this research means is that the very popular Parent-Taught Driver Education Program may not be the wisest public policy for Texas and is not in the best interest of traffic safety,” said Research Scientist Val Pezoldt with TTI’s Center for Transportation Safety. “This is not to say that all parents are poor driving instructors. But the evidence suggests that without some significant modifications to the program, granting parents the sole responsibility for meeting the education and training requirements of our youngest novice drivers serves neither highway safety, parents nor, especially, young drivers well.”
Since 1997, parents or guardians of Texas teenagers have been allowed to provide the state-mandated driver training that is required in order for persons under the age of 18 to be licensed.
TTI’s study found that once novice drivers completed the mandatory six-month learners’ permit phase, parent-taught drivers were both more likely to be convicted of driving violations, including speeding, and more likely to be involved in serious crashes. For example, in the six months of driving experience following the learners’ permit period, parent-taught drivers were involved in nearly 50 percent more crashes in which at least one person received a severe injury. Similarly, during the year following the period of most adult supervision, parent-taught drivers were involved in fatal crashes at a much higher rate than teens that completed commercial or public school driver education.
A handful of other states, including Oklahoma, Virginia, Minnesota and California allow some form of parent-taught driver education; however, Texas gives parents the greatest responsibility for training their teenagers to drive with the least oversight and accountability.
As a result of their findings, the researchers offer the following recommendations to improve the current parent-taught program in Texas:
- Strengthen the criteria for parental participation in the parent-taught driver education program including the disqualification of those parents with poor driving records
- Require at least some minimum training and/or testing for parents who want to teach their children to drive
- Improve the monitoring of and accountability for the activities of the parent-taught driver education program
- Require road tests for all drivers under the age of 18 before granting a provisional or unrestricted license
“Parents can, and should, play a crucial role in the driver training process,” said Pezoldt. “But significant changes to the parent-taught program need to be made to assure that it does not have a negative influence on traffic safety in Texas.”