Volvo Survey: Our Driver Education Programs Are Inadequate

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Who is the biggest hazard on the road? Depends on who you ask. If you’re Gen Z, then Baby Boomers are to blame, while Baby Boomers see Gen Z whippersnappers as the culprits. That’s at least according to data obtained by The Harris Poll on behalf of Volvo Cars.

  • In commissioning the Harris Poll, Volvo sought to find out the efficacy of current driver’s ed programs.
  • Outdated teaching methods and information doesn’t prepare driver’s for today’s conditions.
  • Most states don’t support driver’s education at their peril.
  • In learning to drive, people cite their parents as more influential than licensed instructors.

In commissioning the poll, Volvo wanted to find out how effective driver’s education is in creating confident and safe drivers. There’s no argument the quality and accessibility of driver’s ed has slipped. The most glaring issue is that the majority of current driver’s ed programs are extremely outdated. Written decades ago, the curriculum doesn’t consider modern driving habits and technology.

Public Schools Have Axed The Program

In addition, public schools don’t have the budget to support state-sponsored driver’s education. When cutting “extraneous” programs, it’s one of the first to get the ax. That leaves parents with the financial burden to hire a teacher, putting low income and minority students at a disadvantage. It also puts highway safety in general at a disadvantage, with inexperienced drivers hitting the streets.

If the states could look beyond their noses, they would realize that accidents caused by unqualified and inexperienced drivers hit the budget harder than writing in a line item for driver’s ed. A case of pennywise and pound foolish.

I remember the good ol’ days of serpentining around—and sometimes squishing—neon orange rubber cones in the school’s large parking lot as I honed my chops behind the wheel. Back in the 1970’s 95% of students had access to public driver’s ed. Though nine out of ten Americans support driver’s education as part of public-school curriculum, only 10 states have public programs in place.

The Blame Game

While 85% of older drivers stand by driver’s ed as a reason for being a confident driver, Gen Zs are less likely to do so (74%). With new drivers seeking out more modern methods to learn, such as with simulators, driver’s education obviously needs an overhaul.

By commissioning this study, Volvo wanted to hone in on where driver’s ed still hits the mark and where it needs a rethink. The report explored how all ages learned to drive, what information was available and retained, and what they think needs to be changed or updated in the process.

When it comes to the current state of driver’s education, the program doesn’t receive a pass. In fact, it fails miserably. The stats tell the tale. More than 52% of Americans think driver’s education is outdated. Rather than testing driving skills, 60% of people think the driving test is designed to pass.

Inexperienced Drivers Behind The Wheel

Practice makes perfect, right? Do you think 20 hours or less behind the wheel is enough to put a competent driver on the road? Better cross your fingers it is, because 28% of licensed drivers fall into that category. The study revealed 41% of licensed driver want states to mandate a minimum of 50 hours behind the wheel—more than double what one out of three drivers have.

Interestingly, states mandate an average of 46 hours behind the wheel, while 16 only require 40 hours or less. Remember, states set out these requirements without aiding in meeting the mandate.

So where are kids, who are the majority of new drivers, learning their skills and knowledge? Mom and Dad. Through necessity, parents have to take on the task of training new drivers. And, twice as many drivers cite their parents as the most influential rather than a licensed instructor.

More Cars On The Road

Based on an online survey conducted from May 21-29, 2019 with 2000 licensed adults 18 or older, the full results are published in Volvo Reports: The State of Driver Education. Though not based on a probability sample with a theoretical sampling error, the results are revealing and scary: we have more cars on the road with an increasing amount of unfit drivers behind the wheel.

Since fully autonomous cars could be decades away, we need to find modern and effective methods to put safer drivers on the road. States will have to pay one way or another. Hopefully, they’ll see the cost benefit analysis of investing in refreshing and providing public access to driver’s ed.

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