Keep Driver Education Available CARROLL COUNTY

February 18, 1993

Next year may be the last time that driver education is taught during the school day in Carroll County. Faced with the cost of replacing antiquated driving simulators, scheduling problems and the pressure to reduce costs, school administrators have proposed dropping the program, which serves about 1,500 students annually. Carroll would join neighboring counties that have already eliminated driver education for their high schoolers due to budget cuts.

The school board, however, should make an extraordinary effort to ensure this course is available to students outside the school day.

The school system's primary task is to provide instruction to students. While driver education is not an academic subject on par with mathematics, English or history, it certainly has its utilitarian value, similar to computer instruction, home economics or physical education. The fact that 90 percent of the students enroll in the course is evidence that students recognize its worth.

Society is better off when teen-agers receive driver education. A National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study a decade ago reported that teen-agers with driver ed had 5 percent fewer accidents than those who didn't. Not only do the teen-agers drive better, but driver education also reduces the risk for the rest of us on the road. Insurance companies, recognizing the beneficial effects of such courses, reduce premiums for drivers who have completed them.

Carroll school officials are exploring the possibility of engaging private driver education services to offer the instruction following school hours, on weekends and during the summer. By presenting the companies with large numbers of potential student drivers and free use of school buildings, officials hope these firms will jump at the chance to offer their instructional programs at reduced fees.

At present, students must pay $65 for on-road instruction. If the school system used private companies, officials say the cost might increase to between $200 and $250 for the entire course.

Such a price might be an unfair burden on a poor family, and some type of relief for those students should be developed. However, for most county teen-agers, who seem to find money to pay for expensive shoes, clothes and compact discs, the cost would be worth the benefits.

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