Right now teens in driver ed courses only have to complete 14 hours of behind the wheel training and in-car observation. But as of Saturday, that number will increase to 34 hours.
“Folks looked at it and thought that 14 hours of instruction and practice is really not enough. Probably a lot of kids are getting more than there, but there may be some that really are only doing the bare minimum.”
That’s Tela Mange with the Texas Department of Public Safety. She says the new course also calls for ten hours of night-time instruction.
“In the past they were not required to have any training or instruction during the nighttime hours. People just decided that it would be a good idea to require that they have an adult in the car with them and that they learn how different it is to drive at night.”
According to the Texas Transportation Institute, driving at night is the number one cause of death or injury for teenage drivers. Patrick Barrett has been in the driver education business since the 1970s and is the president of a Houston-based company called Driver Ed in a Box. He says driving is the most dangerous thing a teen can do.
“It is absolutely the number one killer of teens. It kills more than drug overdose. It kills more than suicide. It kills more than drive-by shootings. The highest risk they face of losing their life is being in that vehicle when they’re a teenager.”
Even with the new requirements, Texas is still a bit behind. Most other states require 50 hours of practice.
Barrett calls the change a big step in the right direction, but says he believes the emphasis should be on mastery of driving skills rather than number of hours logged.