15-year-old Sean Garity is taking a driver training course and says he feels more confident because of it.
By Robert Kittle
South Carolina has the second-worst drivers in the nation, according to a new report by CarInsuranceComparison.com. But even before that report, Sen. Shane Massey prefiled a bill in the state Senate to make our roads safer.
The rankings say that Louisiana has the worst drivers. The scores are based on things like a state's fatality rate, number of DUIs, and the number of tickets for speeding, careless driving, running traffic lights and not wearing seat belts.
Sen. Massey's bill (http://www.scstatehouse.gov/sess120_2013-2014/bills/849.htm)would require anyone under the age of 21 to pass an eight-hour driver training course before getting a driver's license. It could be a driver's ed course taught at school or a private driver training course, as long as it's taught by a certified instructor. North Carolina already requires drivers under 18 o pass a training course before getting a license.
Bryan McDougald, a former state trooper who's now with the National Safety Council, says, "A driving school will help you break the bad habits and help you become a safer driver, by checking blind spots, by stopping properly at stop signs and traffic signals, and teach you how to parallel park."
Driving instructor Mitch Oates says the report that South Carolina has the second-worst drivers doesn't surprise him a bit, but that requiring driver training would help. "It would be a definite advantage," he says. "A lot of drivers do not understand the laws. They don't know the laws, so a lot of the basic mistakes you see could be eradicated if people knew the laws."
The biggest argument against the bill will be the cost to parents. Driver training courses cost several hundred dollars. Sen. Massey, R-Edgefield, says, "Having to pay for higher insurance rates because the inexperienced driver does something stupid on the roadway is a lot more expensive. Having to deal with significant injuries or maybe even death because of a really careless driving issue is certainly more expensive."
Insurance companies do give discounts to drivers who've completed a driver training course.
The South Carolina Department of Public Safety questions the numbers used in the report that rank the state second-worst. For example, the state's fatality rate is down, with 108 fewer fatalities this year than during the same time last year. And the state's seat belt usage rate is 91.7 percent, much higher than the national average of 85 percent.