A tragic car crash that resulted in the deaths of four teens from Griswold, Connecticut, has prompted calls for mandatory driver's education that includes a behind-the-wheel component for teen drivers. Before the teens' deaths, the Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles had just released a report touting a drop in fatalities among 16-year-old and 17-year-old drivers. Some surmise, however, that the drop has less to do with recent safety efforts and more to do with a weak economy that forces teens to put off obtaining a driver's license because of the costs and allows teens fewer opportunities to drive once they do have a license.
Connecticut beefed up its teen driving laws in 2008 to include driving curfews and increased supervised driving hours. But the new laws did not make behind-the-wheel drivers' education mandatory because of cost concerns, according to a state lawmaker with knowledge of the legislation. And according to a federal study on teen graduated license laws, restrictions such as those in Connecticut may keep 16- and 17-year-old drivers safer, but 18-year-old drivers face even higher fatality rates once they get full driving privileges.
Parents, lawmakers, the Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles and driver's education industry representatives seem to agree on one thing: more driving experience behind the wheel is key to reducing teen car accidents and teen fatalities. Teens can get that experience with supervision by their parents or by paying for a driver's education course, but it is clearly necessary to keep them safe behind the wheel.