Can We Redesign Drivers Education For Teenagers?

June 11th, 2010 by

As a parent I often worry about my kids driving. Teenagers are notorious for being very dangerous on the roads. Did you know that a first-year teen driver has a 50% accident rate versus MBA graduates that have an 11% rate?

I barely remember taking drivers education courses and what they consisted of but I often wonder how we are teaching teens to drive, and if the correct information is being given out. I found this story about a man who was living in Arizona named Rich Wojtczak. While living there he heard about a horrible tragic accident involving 4 teenagers dying. As a veteran in the IT department for Ford he starting thinking about how teenagers were being taught to drive. Let’s just say what he found was dis-heartening. He decided to do something about it. He’s not only an innovator in this area but he has created a program that is second to none in drivers education for teenagers. I want to thank Car and Driver for this amazing, inspiring story of a man and his wife changing the face of drivers education for teenagers.

Here is an excerpt from the story.

Everyone knows teenagers can’t drive, but the statistics are sobering. Driving cuts short the lives of more than 4000 young people in the U.S. each year. It’s the No. 1 cause of death for teens, and studies have shown that the vast majority of these accidents are due to driver error. Even so, there doesn’t seem to be much opposition to simply maintaining status quo with their training.

New safety cures—stability control, for example—as well as ever-stricter crash regulations and the proliferation of airbags are no doubt important and effective. At nearly 34,000, traffic fatalities in 2009 were the lowest ever recorded (since 1954), despite the fact that the total miles driven has continued to increase. But how about teaching new drivers how to avoid crashing in the first place? Commenting on his recent driver training, Ian Grinde, a 16-year-old from Minnesota, agrees: “Very little of it had to do with handling a 3000-to-4000-pound hunk of metal in emergency situations,” he says.

A safety tactic many states have adopted is a graduated licensing program whereby teenagers are obligated to drive with their parents for an extended period before being granted an unrestricted license. Of course, this still does nothing to prepare a young driver for an instance in which a limit-handling maneuver could save lives. And who says that the parents are qualified to teach?

Rich Wojtczak believes there’s a better way. He’s proven it, in fact. After 30 years in the IT department at Ford, he and his wife, Maria, moved from Michigan to Arizona to enjoy their golden years. But soon after, a disturbing accident in which four teenagers were killed caught his attention, and he started to investigate new-driver training programs. Specifically, he was interested in finding out if computer simulators were being used anywhere to teach driving, thus removing the risks of first-time learning out on the road. He was appalled at the state regulations, which he found to be “totally inadequate,” and “don’t even require driving on a freeway before getting a license.” Discovering that simulator schools were rare, Rich and Maria started their own company in 2003, Driving MBA, in Scottsdale.

The article is long but an excellent read. If you would like to read the whole story you can find it hear: Redesigning Drivers Education for Teenagers.

Let me know what you thought about the article and what steps you may be taking in teaching your teenagers to drive.

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