In South Carolina only 15- and 16-year-old teens have to take a high school or commercial school driving course before seeking a driver’s license. Unfortunately, fewer than 50 percent of new teenage drivers receive any formal driver training prior to receiving a license (AAA). I believe this is why teens in their first year of driving are almost 10 times more likely to crash, why the fatality rate for drivers 16-19 years of age is four times that of drivers 25-69 years, and that motor vehicle crashes are the No. 1 cause of teenage deaths. I also believe this is why Sen. Shane Massey, R-Edgefield, has proposed the S.86 bill that all teenagers and those under 21 years of age have to take driver education or driver training before trying to get a driver’s license (the bill is currently residing in the Senate Committee on Transportation).

Teens need to have a driver education or driver training course to become better drivers and to make the highways safer. The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety recognizes that crashes are most common in the first six months of independent driving and that teen crash rates decline quickly as young drivers gain experience and become more mature. Such a course will help teens to recognize and respond to hazards and “well taught, not only improves driver behavior ... classroom instruction seeks to produce the sophisticated traffic citizen needed in our society” (Dr. Richard W. Bishop).

Good drivers are not born on their 18th birthday. They are developed under careful teaching through childhood and early adolescence. Certainly, driving constitutes the greatest hazard to survival through which American youth must pass successfully in order to reach adulthood. The end product should be accident avoidance, and a byproduct is accident reduction.

South Carolinians need to support the S.86 bill. We know that “youth are the hope of yesterday, the joy of today and the guarantee of a better tomorrow.”

Consider this — since we invaded Iraq in 2003, we’ve lost more than 4,300 soldiers, and this is totally unacceptable. Yet during that same period more than 40,000 15- to 19-year-old teens have been killed in motor vehicle crashes. This is not simply a statistic — it represents our nation’s Dead Kids. We say that 4,300 dead soldiers are not acceptable, but are we saying 40,000 dead teens are acceptable? If not, please do what you can to promote driver and traffic safety education for all of our South Carolina teenagers.

Any safety education course before getting a driver’s license is better than none.

Ensuring that teenagers take driver education or driver training before getting a driver’s license is an edge they need to help them drive and survive. May you help to make it so!

JOE SABBADINO

President, S.C. Driver

and Traffic Safety Education Association

Sutton Drive

Taylors