Key research findings

  • Early evaluations have not shown driver education to have safety benefits. Although driver education provides an efficient means to learn how to drive, evaluations have failed to show that such formal programs produce safer drivers. 3 Poor evaluation methods may be part of the reason for this, but even well-designed evaluations have produced findings that raise questions about the safety benefits of driver education. 4. One of those being that drivers are licensed at a younger age than ideal and this results in more crashes. 5
  • Recent evaluations suggest driver education may still hold promise as a safety measure. Recently, a major investigation reported results suggesting that driver education in Oregon is associated with statistically significant reductions in collisions and convictions although other factors not accounted for in the analyses might explain part or all of, these positive findings, and not driver education itself. 6 These positive findings on safety effectiveness are consistent with those of an earlier evaluation of GDL in Oregon,7 although the better crash outcomes for driver education in this investigation could have been due to self-selection bias. Further potentially promising findings for driver education also emerged from an evaluation of graduated driver licensing programs in Canada and the United States which found that the relative fatality risk of 18-year old drivers in jurisdictions where driver education is mandatory in the learner phase decreased compared to those jurisdictions where driver education is not mandatory in the learner phase.8 This, however, was not the case for 16- and 17-year old drivers. More recently, an evaluation in Nebraska also reported that driver education was associated with small but statistically significant reductions in collisions but this study was not a true randomized, controlled experiment, as teens self-selected whether they took driver education or not.9
  • More research is needed to establish the safety effects of driver education. These findings from a few recent studies are promising but given their design limitations there is the need for further investigation to better establish the safety effects of driver education within GDL programs.

3Christie 2011; Engstrom et al. 2003; Lonero and Mayhew 2010; Mayhew and Simpson 2002; Mayhew and Simpson 1998; Roberts et al. 2002; Simpson 2003; Thomas et al. 2012a; Vernick et al. 1999; Williams et al. 2009; Woolley 2000

4Stock et al. 1983

5Lund et al. 1986; Mayhew and Simpson 1996, 1998

6Mayhew et al. 2014; Mayhew et al. 2017

7Raymond et al. 2007

8Vanlaar et al. 2009

9Shell et al. 2015