Is Driver's Ed Failing America's Teens?


teen driver

GREENVILLE, SC -- Aug. 26, 2014: New data about driver's education and training in this country finds that teenagers in the United States often lack the essential knowledge and skills that can help keep them safe on the roads. This knowledge gap may result in nearly 300,000 preventable car crashes involving inexperienced drivers each year1.

Automobile accidents are the No. 1 killer of teens in America, with more than 5,000 deaths each year2. Of the 2.2 million vehicle accidents per year, 12 percent are among inexperienced drivers and involve tire-related issues such as insufficient tire tread or improperly inflated tires1, a number which is nearly three times higher than with experienced drivers. That equates to one accident every two minutes.

"Teenagers in this country are dying in car accidents or are involved in car crashes that are preventable and require only very simple behavior changes," said Pete Selleck, chairman and president of Michelin North America. "Michelin North America is committed to helping lead change and to get our young drivers the training they need."

According to a new survey commissioned by Michelin North America and the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), the governing body for world motor sport, only half of teens (49 percent) and their parents (47 percent) reported believing that their driver's education program completely prepared the teens to drive3. The two organizations also conducted an in-depth audit of driver's education curricula in all 50 states. Only 16 states require tire safety information as part of driver's education. Beyond this, only seven include tire safety information and require classroom time devoted to vehicle maintenance and tire safety.

"Young drivers can take some very easy, quick steps that can affect their safety – and help them avoid an accident," said Selleck. "Tires are the only parts of a car that touch the road, so it makes sense that driving safety begins with tire maintenance. Driver's education today has done many things well; however, it has generally ignored some key safety facts – driving with unsafe or improperly inflated tires – that can be life threatening."

To better understand the current driver's education landscape, Michelin and FIA conducted an audit of driver's education manuals from 50 states. Key findings include:

Fewer than half of states (23) mandate driver's education classroom time, and of those, only seven states cover tire safety information – California, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Texas, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin. An additional nine states refer to tire safety in their educational materials, but none mandate classroom time devoted to tires or tire safety. These gaps in driver's education curricula are evident in teen education, knowledge and behavior, according to the survey findings:

1-in-4 (27 percent) teens report they never check the condition of their tires (compared with 3 percent of parents). Less than half of teens (48 percent) check their tires at least monthly (the recommended frequency) compared with 69 percent of parents. Nearly three quarters (73 percent) of teens said they had their parents teach them about tire maintenance, but only around one-third (38 percent) of these parents consider themselves to be extremely knowledgeable about tire maintenance. The survey results are based on responses from 1,001 teens and their parents in interviews conducted by Ipsos June 17 - 30, 2014.

To address the safety gap in the current U.S. driver's education curriculum, Michelin and FIA are launching an effort to transform the way new drivers are trained, including mobilizing parental involvement, encouraging peer education and working to update the state-by-state Department of Motor Vehicles education curricula. Because many of these accidents are preventable, the partners joined together to launch a new campaign, Beyond the Driving Test, to raise awareness of tire maintenance and safety.

In the short term, Michelin and FIA are working to make new resources available to help teens and parents brush up on their own car and tire maintenance skills, including a downloadable glove box guide with important tips. In addition, the partners are kicking off a new series featuring popular teen YouTube stars sharing tire safety tutorials.

In the longer term, Michelin and FIA are committed to rallying the industry to get involved and shape the future of America's driver's education curricula in an effort to help teens avoid accidents and save lives. The partners are calling for all 50 states to include tire safety information in their official driver's education materials by the year 2020.

Scott Clark, the chief operating officer of Michelin North America's passenger car and light truck division, said, "We applaud the 16 states that include tire safety in their educational materials. We look forward to working with those states to ensure they have up-to-date and comprehensive information about tire safety and maintenance, and we will provide the same material to the remaining two-thirds of states that don't include any tire-related information in their current driver's education manuals."

To learn more about the research findings, as well as access educational resources, visit Beyond the Driving Test

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