The first year that American teenagers have a drivers license will be among the most dangerous of their lives, as vehicle accidents are the leading cause of teenage deaths.

Yet most states (including South Carolina) don’t require driver education/driver training before getting a license. Half of all teenagers in the state fail to undergo any formal behind-the-wheel training.

The first need is to have a teen take either a mandatory driver education or a mandatory driver training course. More national statistics to show the need are:

1) One in three young people crashes in the first six months after getting a license.

2) Half of all teenagers will be involved in a car crash before graduating from high school.

3) The fatality rate for drivers from the ages of 16 to 19 is four times that of drivers aged 25 to 69.

4) Six teenagers die daily in vehicle crashes.

The second need is having the same standardized course for all driver education and driver training courses in South Carolina. At this time there are extreme differences in teacher preparation and teaching requirements.

One state agency requires a degree and 12 semester hours in driver and traffic safety education before one can teach it. Another agency requires the owner/representative of a school to take one college course and 40 hours of instruction for certification as a teacher.

Legislation is needed for mandatory driver training and teacher standards in order to make a difference.

We need to help our youth to live to become the leaders of tomorrow.

Reading, writing and arithmetic are fine. However, what good is it if teenagers do not know the physics of a vehicle and end up killing themselves?

Most European countries have seen the need to require several safety courses before granting licenses to teenagers. We also know that youth is the joy of the past, hope of the present and the promise of the future.

May South Carolina do her part to require that teenagers take driver education and training so they can do their part in making safety first and making safety last.

Joe Sabbadino is past president of the South Carolina Driver and Traffic Safety Education Association. He operates a driving school in Taylors, S.C.