Ohio may allow on-line driver education www.privateofficer.com
The revision would have broad impact. In 2010, Ohio licensed 152,230 16- and 17-year-olds, according to the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles.
Ohio requires drivers age 15½ to 17 to take 24 hours of instruction in the classroom, eight hours of driving and practice 50 hours with an adult. The new law would let teens take the classroom portion, if OK’d by the Ohio Department of Public Safety, online.
Sen. Tom Patton, R-Strongsville, said the change provides an option for students and families who can’t fit traditional classes into their schedules.
Online companies also charge considerably less than brick-and-mortar schools — as low as $19 for one program.
“If we’re allowing people to get Ph.D.s online … this is driver’s training — we should be able to do this,” Patton said. “Young people have become accustomed to learning online.”
Patton, who led the push to ban electronic devices for teen drivers, said he wouldn’t have hesitated if one of his six adult children wanted to take driver’s ed online.
The proposed change is one of several amendments to the governor’s main budget corrections bill, which is expected to reach the Senate floor Wednesday.
Driver education school leaders oppose the change, saying teens could complete the online course with little oversight. They also fear a loss of business that they said could force them to raise prices and close classroom locations. On-the-road training is more expensive to provide than classroom instruction, they said.
Driving schools don’t oppose online classes, but would prefer a “blended” setup where students take most of the classroom portion online and meet in a class for tests and to discuss more serious topics such as drunken driving, said Dan Cox, president of the Driving School Association of Ohio.
“By us having the other half of this, we can test them in class,” Cox said. “They cannot ever cheat on it because we’re testing them physically in class. We can enter the 21st century, but we need to do it right.”
Of the 26 states that require teen driving education, 15 have approved online courses or online course providers, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association.
The data is inconclusive on whether traditional online or traditional classroom instruction leads to better driving habits, however.
Texas studied parental instruction but did not distinguish between online programs. California examined license test pass rates, but didn’t link them to accident data. Preliminary data from Virginia indicated crash rates were lower among public school students taking the course in school compared to homeschooled students taking one of the approved alternative courses. A similar effort in New Hampshire stalled last month.
The lack of evidence supports the need for online courses, said Gary Tsifrin, founder and chief operating officer of DriversEd.Com, which started offering classes in California in 2004.
Tsifrin said his program and others led to more teens taking drivers education before becoming licensed drivers.
“The idea that all learners are the same ignores the contemporary research in education, which clearly identifies the types of learners who benefit from online education,” Tsifrin said.
Crash fatalities among California teens decreased more than 50 percent from 2004 to 2008, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety attributed the drop to graduated licensing, which lengthened the permit period and added 50 hours of practice time.
DriversEd.com offers courses in all 15 states and already has a Web page to lure Ohio drivers to sign up for a $49.95 course. Tsifrin said the listed price is a placeholder for the cost determined on demand in Ohio.
The price sounds like a bargain compared to the $370 program offered by D&D Driving School in Kettering.
But students would still have to spend eight hours behind the wheel with an instructor — an expensive service driving school owners say will cost more if online courses are allowed.
D&D operates 10 locations and owner Sharon Fife said the move would force her to cut back and knock out about half of Ohio’s 780 driving school locations.
Fife is not opposed to online courses but said a teen could have a friend or parent take the course for them unless there is some classroom oversight.
“We’re talking about teenagers, we’re talking about lives,” she said. “The highest crash rate is among 16- to 20-year-olds — why would you diminish high quality education for teens?”
Source:Dayton Daily News