HOME-STUDY DRIVER EDUCATION
Driver education and behind-the-wheel driver training exist throughout the world and are commonly a prerequisite for a driver license by licensing agencies to mitigate the high crash risk of novice teen drivers (Anderson, Abdalla, Goldberg, Diab, & Pomietto, 2000; Mayhew & Simpson, 1996, 2002). The main goal of these formal instructional courses is to teach new drivers the knowledge, skills, and attitudes necessary for safely operating a motor vehicle and passing the written and behind-the-wheel driving tests required to obtain a driver license (Anderson et al., 2000; Mayhew & Simpson, 1990, 1996, 2002).
Among other requirements, teenagers younger than 18 years old who wish to obtain a driver license in California must first obtain an instruction permit issued by the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). With the implementation of California’s graduated licensing program in July 1998, teens are required to hold their learner’s permit for a minimum of 6 months, complete 50 hours of supervised on-the- road instruction (beyond the 6 hours typically required for completion of driver training), and are restricted from driving with passengers younger than 20 years old during the first 6 months after licensure and from driving between midnight and 5:00 am during the first 12 months after licensure. To obtain the instruction permit, teens must have completed or be simultaneously enrolled in both driver education and driver training courses or have completed driver education and be enrolled in driver training, and must pass both the vision and written knowledge tests. To obtain their provisional driver license they must pass a drive test. Driver education and training courses in California have historically been taught by: (a) private commercial driving schools licensed by the DMV, (b) public secondary schools (public high schools), and (c) private secondary schools (private high schools).
Although driver education in California has typically been taught in a classroom, Senate Bill 946 (Vasconcellos, 1999) required the department to complete a study comparing the knowledge levels and attitudes of teenagers who complete driver education in a classroom course with those of teenagers who complete a home-study course (CVC §12814.8). (A copy of the legislation is shown in Appendix A.) The law required that the types of home study to be compared include an interactive computer- based course, a paper-based workbook course, and a preexisting course utilizing computer or paper-based workbook methods, or both. This report presents comparisons of the knowledge and skill levels and attitudes of students completing these home-study courses with those of students taught in a classroom environment. Hence, the study results provide information about the relative effectiveness of the different methods of delivering a driver education course, not about whether any of the driver education courses have any safety value per se.
The legislation enabling the evaluation of home-study driver education specifies that at least 8,000 students were to participate in the pilot project, with approximately 2,000 in each of the four course types being compared. The law required the department to recommend in writing by January 1, 2002 that the project be terminated if it was determined that the required number of students could not be obtained. The training of students was to occur from January 1, 2001 through December 31, 2002, but due to