Every morning most of us are off to our destination—work, school, or other locations. Most of us are responsible and conscientious drivers. Still, too many drivers engage in unsafe or irresponsible behaviors on the road. Every time I get behind the wheel I say a silent prayer, “Dear Lord, please don’t let me be run over by the idiots today. Please keep me and others safe out here.” The fact is many schools across the nation have done away with Driver’s Education for a multitude of reasons.
For most driving a vehicle is a benefit, first granted to us by our parents and then recognized by those who issued a license. Driving a car is not a right promised to every person, but rather a privilege granted to people who complete certain requirements.
In the legal arena, even the US Supreme Court says that citizens do not have a fundamental “right to drive.” In Dixon v. Love, 431 U.S. 105, 112-16, 97 S.Ct. 1723, 52 L.Ed.2d 172 (1977), the Supreme Court held that a state could summarily suspend or revoke the license of a motorist who had been repeatedly convicted of traffic offenses with due process satisfied by a full administrative hearing available only after the suspension or revocation had taken place. The Court conspicuously did not afford the possession of a driver’s license the weight of a fundamental right. (See also Mackey v. Montrym, 443 U.S. 1, 10, 99 S.Ct. 2612, 61 L.Ed.2d 321 (1979); Bell v. Burson, 402 U.S. 535, 539, 542-43, 91 S.Ct. 1586, 29 L.Ed.2d 90 (1971).)
In Rutherford County, school board member Tammy Sharp is working with her colleagues to ask the state legislature for a new law to revoke the driver’s licenses of those who make threats to a school. This should not be the only punishment for such a threat. However, this is a good first step.
Tennessee does require that a minor must have 50 hours of supervised behind-the-wheel experience, including 10 hours at night. The Tennessee Department of Safety only requires students to complete a driver’s education course if they have been convicted of multiple moving violations while operating on their intermediate restricted license. It is time to rethink that policy. It is currently not a requirement for a minor child to obtain a permit or license to complete a driver’s education course.
Nobody disputes that it is an important resource that can help students become responsible and safe drivers. Should we restrict student access on our school campuses until they can prove to be responsible and safe drivers? Should a driver’s education course be required? How can we prove or truly verify the supervision behind the behind-the-wheel or night experience?
From a school safety perspective, school district policy should require a student to pass a driver’s education course before being allowed to drive to/from school or park their vehicle on school grounds. This class could also be offered during the summer or through any legitimate driving schools nationwide. The objective should not be to save parents a few dollars on auto insurance, it must be to improve driving, reduce accidents and injuries, and ultimately save lives. We all benefit by learning defensive driving techniques and other safe driving skills that will last a lifetime.
Distracted driving, particularly due to texting and phone use, has become a significant issue on the roads. It poses a serious threat to the safety of all road users, not only because of the increased number of inexperienced drivers but also because of the prevalence of smartphones and the temptation they present. This can lead to accidents, injuries, and even fatalities. Educating young and inexperienced drivers about the dangers of distracted driving is crucial in reducing accidents and improving road safety. It is already illegal in our state, yet we all see it too frequently.
Driver's education courses can indeed be highly beneficial for drivers of all ages and experience levels. They provide essential knowledge and skills that promote safe driving practices and help reduce accidents on the road. We must prioritize human lives and work to prevent accidents in the future. Policymakers and communities need to prioritize road safety and consider the potential benefits of funding and expanding driver's education requirements.
JC Bowman is the Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee