Photo: Molly (flickr)
Indiana lawmakers are looking to Oregon as they consider standardizing and updating driver’s education in both public and private settings across the state.
Oregon’s driver education program underwent a significant overhaul about a decade ago. Since that change, the number of car crashes involving 16-year-old drivers that cause death or injury has gone down more than 58 percent. With 17-year-olds at the wheel, crashes dropped more than 45 percent.
Oregon Department of Transportation Program Manager Bill Warner says that is because the state’s driver education program moves beyond teaching the simple skills such as steering and braking – it focuses on safer habits and behaviors.
“We had to put the student in the place where they began to anticipate, ‘What could happen with this truck at the edge of the road. Will he pull out? What could happen with this pedestrian?’ And so we began to ask them to develop habits of searching and actually giving them specific ways to search,” he says.
State Senator Brent Waltz, R-Greenwood, says he would like to see Indiana adopt greater standardization of its driver education programs, coordinating curriculum and training.
“And you want to be able to get stakeholders – the driver’s education companies, the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, various public safety groups – coming in to develop that standard,” he says.
Oregon also makes driver’s ed classes more accessible by subsidizing part of the education costs through a fee on driver’s licenses. Waltz says that idea has been unpopular among members of Indiana’s General Assembly.