Division of Legislative Services > Legislative Record > 2007

SJR 378: Joint Subcommittee to Study Revision of the Curriculum for Driver Training Programs

September 18, 2007

The Joint Subcommittee to Study Revision of the Curriculum for Driver Training Programs, held its second meeting of the 2007 interim on September 18, 2007, with Senator Jay O'Brien as chair and Delegate Matt Lohr as vice-chair.


Jennifer Hine, Operations Manager of the Driver Services Division for the Maryland Vehicle Administration, informed the members about Maryland's Graduated Licensing System that was adopted in 1998. The system applies to all novice drivers, not just teens. Since the system has been in place, the crash rate has declined among novice drivers.

Aspects of the Maryland program that differ from Virginia's program include the minimum age to obtain a learner's permit, the number of hours of driving practice required to obtain a provisional license, sanctions for being convicted of a moving violation during the learner's permit phase, and completion of a practice driving skills log documenting a minimum of 60 hours of supervised driving practice. A learner's permit must be held for six months, and the provisional license with restrictions must be held for 18 months, conviction-free, before a permanent driver's license may be obtained. For the first five months, the provisional license restrictions include a prohibition from transporting any passenger under the age of 18.

Maryland is also promoting the participation of parents and their children in a parent/teen driving agreement. In the voluntary program, parents and teens set their household rules for driving.

Vanessa Wigand, Principal Specialist for Driver Education, Health Education and Physical Education for the Virginia Department of Education, made a presentation to the members on the prevalence of simulators in the driver education programs around the state, the costs of simulators, and the average cost to provide driver education per pupil. According to Ms. Wigand, simulators have been in use in Virginia for over 30 years and can cost anywhere from $25 for desktop software to $150,000 for a full-sized vehicle body.

Twelve school divisions in the Commonwealth currently utilize some form of simulation. The average crash rate in localities that use simulation is 10% compared to the average crash rate of nonsimulation localities, which is 10.3%. Ms. Wigand pointed out that the localities utilizing simulation often include a parental involvement requirement, as well as the use of multiple car and crash avoidance ranges and skid cars.

Ms. Wigand also discussed localities that offer a 90-hour program, rather than the minimum requirement of a 45-hour program. Currently, of the 10 localities that offer a 90-hour semester program, four have a lower crash rate than the state average and six have a significantly higher crash rate than the state average. On average, the cost of a public school in-car program is approximately $189 with a fee of $72 compared to the cost of a commercial driving school fee of around $275. During the current school year, 35 school divisions will also be offering "Partners for Teen Safe Driving," which is a program that assists parents in their efforts to guide children safely through the first years of driving.

onnie Conner-Gray, the Secondary Health, Physical Education and Driver Education Specialist for Henrico County Public Schools, spoke specifically about Henrico County's Driver Education Program and how it goes beyond the minimum requirements of state law and regulation. The program offered in Henrico County is a semester long, 90-hour program. It affords students a wide variety of experiences, including simulation and the opportunity to attend a crash avoidance range. The newer simulators in use in Henrico cost $3,000 to $3,600 per unit, but offer a highly advanced virtual driving experience. The simulation is in addition to three weeks of behind-the-wheel range driving. Since the new simulators have been in use, the Henrico County Public School crash rates have decreased to 8.4% in 2006, down from 21% in 2003.

The use of Henrico County’s crash avoidance range is not a requirement, but currently 20% of the students attend the three-hour program offered on a Saturday. It is Ms. Conner-Gray's hope that by the 2008-2009 school year attendance in the crash-avoidance program will be mandatory.

Ms. Conner-Gray also discussed the importance of instructor training, which she emphasized may be the best insurance for effective driver education programs. All Henrico County driving instructors must attend an eight hour advanced crash avoidance training course with International Training, Inc., a company that also trains secret service drivers.

Karen Grim, Assistant Commissioner for Driver, Vehicle and Data Management for the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), gave additional information about the auditing of commercial driving schools and crash data since Virginia adopted graduated driver's license requirements in 2001. She noted that the heaviest population of commercial driving schools appears in Northern Virginia and Roanoke. There were a total of eight complaints regarding commercial driving schools in 2006, and so far there have been seven in 2007.

Currently, sanctions are available to DMV to impose disciplinary measures on commercial driving schools for violations. New regulations going into effect in January 2008 will give the DMV the opportunity to discipline individual driver instructors as well.

Ms. Grim noted that crash data available since the graduated license requirements went into effect reveals that the rate of 15-17 year-old drivers involved in crashes and the rate of injuries have decreased, while the rate of fatalities has fluctuated.

Public Comment

During the public comment period the members heard comments from Robin Thompson of Fairfax, a mother who lost a child in a fatal car crash. She urged the joint subcommittee to consider incorporating crash avoidance components to the current driver education curriculum. Ms. Thompson also advocates widespread use of simulators and more extensive instructor training.

Sherry Bollhorst of Hampton City Schools spoke about accountability on the part of driver education instructors. She assured the joint subcommittee members that there is strong oversight from the Department of Education and that the instructors in Hampton meet all insurance and driving record requirements.

Next Meeting

The joint subcommittee plans to have one more meeting in November after Thanksgiving. Information will be posted on the study website hosted by DLS when available.

The Hon. Jay O'Brien

For information, contact:
Nikki Seeds, DLS Staff


Division of Legislative Services > Legislative Record > 2007

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