Driving Schools Offers Better Training For New Drivers


Since the beginning of the automobile, people have had to learn how to drive cars. And as the cars became the preeminent manner of transportation, teens have had to learn how to drive as part of that trend. Unfortunately, drivers education has not been given its due until very recently in the United States. Prior to the 1970’s there was truly no attempt at creating a uniform curriculum. The roads had become quite crowded starting with the end of World War II and the idea of formal driver training wasn’t considered for another 25 years.

Ancient History

The first attempt at creating a formal driving school curriculum was in the 1970’s and was in the form of a book titled “Drive Right”. This book prescribed a collection of classroom lessons and behind-the-wheel drives with the goal of arming a school teacher with what they needed to successfully teach a novice teen to become a competent driver. There was no consideration of research behind the various techniques or areas of focus behind this early curriculum. Teachers received no formal training and the job was usually given to the teachers who needed extra work, regardless of qualifications. This went on for several decades and there was finally a study named “The DeKalb Study” that showed drivers ed actually did not have any real positive impact on teens’ driving records.

Recent History

The next innovation in drivers education was know as “Defensive Driving”. The formal definition for Defensive Driving is “driving to save lives, time, and money, in spite of the conditions around you and the actions of others”. The goal was to provide a bit of rigor around a more formalized training program. The problem was that defensive driving was aimed at all drivers, from teen to professionals and as such really didn’t focus on a particular segment of drivers. Most curriculums based on defensive driving still have their share of “scare” films and other materials that have been shown to be ineffective. Again, defensive driving was not really based on any formal research and as such did not produce great results.


Over the last 20 years there have finally been several research projects aimed at understanding the causes of teen driver crashes and some possible mechanisms for improvement. The research is still scarce, but at least there are several peer-reviewed studies that can really point the direction in enhancing the state of the art in teen drivers education. Many universities, such as UMASS, VTTI, etc. have research budgets and do ongoing research in many areas related to teen driving. To date, this research has been very slow in moving from the lab to the driving schools, but begun to happen. Another trend in recent history is the moving of drivers ed from the public schools to dedicated private schools which fosters innovation. One such school, SWERVE Driving School, has based their curriculum on the currently available research. And as a result, their students have been shown to produce students who have fewer collisions and citations than those trained by other schools (as taken from the Washington State Department Of Licensing database).


As the database of research grows, driving schools will eventually adopt this research into their programs making them much more effective. Eventually this could even affect programs such as California Online Drivers Education, which are taught via a combination of both online and actual behind-the-wheel instruction. Finally, there may be hope that we will see the number of teen driver incidents reduced in the not too distant future.

About the author:
Joe Pruskowski is a member of the team at SWERVE Driving School, a company committed to producing the Nation’s best drivers. Please visit SWERVE’s site for more information on drivers education and defensive driving tips.

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