In the great scheme of programs that are critically necessary for North Carolina state government to fulfill its constitutional obligations, driver’s education might seem pretty far down the list of needs and vital concerns. But drastically reducing funding for the program, as the N.C. Senate has proposed doing, would have real consequences on public safety.
The Senate’s proposed budget would take $26 million from driver’s education and apply that money to buy more school buses. To those of us of a certain age, it might seem like a good idea. Many of us feel like we’ve been driving practically forever. Anyone can do it.
But for a 16-year-old slipping behind the wheel for the first time, driving is anything but second nature. Mastering steering, acceleration, brakes and more is a new adventure unto itself. Putting that young teen on a busy road like Wesleyan Boulevard without any formal instruction would present more of a risk than many of us realize or want to admit.
Without state funding, the cost of driver’s education at a public school would soar from $55 to $350, some experts have suggested. That price tag is likely to discourage many students from taking driver’s ed, opting instead to wait and obtain a license at the age of 18, when driver’s education is no longer required.
Such a trend would put more at-risk drivers on North Carolina’s roads.
The state has spent much of the past decade setting tougher restrictions on young drivers. It would be a real shame to see those safety improvements disappear if the Senate’s budget passes.