A proposed bill in the Texas Legislature would reverse the current driver testing law for teenagers under the age of 18. State Representative James White, a Republican representing District 19, has introduced a bill to allow parents to administer driving tests to their teens, which was allowed prior to 2009. In 2009, the Legislature changed the law, putting driver testing under the purview of the Texas Department of Public Safety.
White’s reason for seeking to revert back to the prior testing rule is to help alleviate licensing wait times at DPS offices. Teens who would be eligible to have their DPS tests waived in favor of parent testing would still need to complete 32 hours of classroom driver training and 44 hours of behind-the-wheel and in-car observation training.
The bill, HB409, is awaiting a hearing in the Texas House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security & Public Safety.
Opposition to Parent Testing
Not surprisingly, there is opposition to allowing parents to again perform driver testing of their teens. At least one opponent believes doing away with the 2009 law will make the state’s roads more dangerous and possibly lead to more highway deaths.
A member of the Texas Professional Driver Education Association was quoted as saying in an article for Houston Public Media that “parents are not trained to be instructors, they’re not trained to know the road rules, road signs, and correct bad behavior.”
Additionally, according to reporting from Austin’s Fox 7 News, a federal study concluded that “there is evidence to suggest that the parent-taught driver education program has a negative influence on the overall safety of novice drivers in Texas, especially in terms of young driver crash involvement.”
Stats on Teen Driving
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, car accidents are the leading cause of death for teenagers. The sad facts show that 6 teens die on the country’s roads every day in crashes, adding up to thousands a year. Hundreds of thousands more are injured. Per mile driven, teens are three times as likely as people ages 20 and over to be in fatal crashes. And the newest drivers are the most likely to be in fatal accidents. Statistics show that the fatal crash rate for teens 16-17 years old in their first months of driving is nearly twice as high per mile driven compared to teens 18-19.
Due to lack of experience, teen drivers are more likely than older drivers to underestimate or not recognize roadway dangers and also to make critical decision errors that lead to serious crashes, according to several studies. This puts themselves and everyone around them at risk. Operating a motor vehicle is a huge responsibility. Arming young drivers with the best driving education possible, including testing by trained professionals, helps set them up for a lifetime of safe driving habits.