Michigan's driver education program praised by NHTSA

JULY 15, 2014Image: Driver Education

Michigan's driver education program praised by NHTSA

LANSING, Mich. – Michigan's driver education program received high praise from a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration-sponsored panel of national experts, Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson announced today.

"The report calls our driver education and traffic safety programs exemplary," Johnson said. "It's a testament to our commitment to providing meaningful driver education training that helps keep young drivers – and everyone else on the road – safe. We value the chance to be measured against high national standards as part of our goal to keep improving."

Michigan is the seventh state to go through the voluntary driver education assessment sponsored by NHTSA. Experts from Oregon, Ohio, North Carolina, Virginia, and Washington D.C., reviewed Michigan's driver education program, identified strengths, accomplishments and problem areas, and offered suggestions for improvement.

"Michigan is very lucky to have so many dedicated teen driver safety officials, instructors and volunteers," said Troy Costales, an Oregon Department of Transportation safety division administrator, who headed the assessment team that came to Michigan. "Every day all across the state, teens are receiving top-quality instruction and guidance. The recent peer review can be used to make these programs even better."

The report's priority recommendations included increasing parent involvement in the teen driver program, such as attending sessions, requiring them to document the 50 hours of supervised driving practice and providing feedback to parents on their teen's in-car driving skills. It also suggested incrementally increasing the number of hours students spend in class from 30 to 45, and behind the wheel from six to 10 hours as well as in-car observation time from four to 10 hours.

Michigan sought out national input in large part because motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of teen deaths in the United States, claiming about 3,000 lives each year, Johnson said. In 2012, 10 percent of drivers in Michigan involved in fatal crashes were under the age of 21, she added.

Michigan's laws are designed to help teens gradually and safely build their skills and experience behind the wheel.

Michigan's Graduated Driver Licensing program introduces driving concepts gradually, allowing young drivers to master certain skills before increasing their driving privileges with the GDL 2 and 3 licenses. Teens are not required to advance to the next license level until they're ready or turn 18.

In addition to any driver training program teens participate in, the Secretary of State provides materials, including access to a free smartphone app that helps parents and guardians track the required practice hours behind the wheel with their teen and offers coaching tips. Additional information is available at Michigan.gov/teendriver.

Johnson has been a big supporter of efforts to improve driver education in Michigan. Last year, she partnered with Ford Motor Co. to offer new resources for students as part of the Parent's Supervised Driving Program. The program even includes a mobile app so students can track their practice hours behind the wheel. This year, she is partnering with Big Brothers Big Sisters on efforts to improve access to driver education.

Such resources can help make a difference in how prepared teens are when they get behind the wheel by themselves, said Tom Clarkson, Field Senior Vice President, Allstate. The Allstate Foundation has made teen safe driving a signature focus, and offers resources including a Parent Coaching Guide and Parent-Teen Agreement at www.allstateteendriver.com.

"Car crashes are the No. 1 killer of teens in America," Clarkson said. "And inexperience is the leading cause of teen crashes. Graduated driver licensing is a system that is proven effective at reducing teen drivers' high crash rates by 20 percent to 40 percent, because it slowly exposes teens to the driving experience. We commend the state of Michigan for investing in resources and developing laws to help keep teens safe on our roads."

For more information about branch office locations, hours and services, visit www.Michigan.gov/sos. Sign up for the official Secretary of State Twitter feed at www.twitter.com/michsos and Facebook updates at www.facebook.com/MichiganSoS.

Customers also may call the Department of State Information Center to speak to a customer service representative at 888-SOS-MICH (767-6424).


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