To the Editor:
Keith Crain's call for better driver training is laudable if misguided ("New drivers need better training," Sept. 5).
Training teen drivers does not reduce crash rates. Paradoxically, driver training increases crashes because teens get their licenses earlier if they take driver's ed.
Those were the conclusions of a comprehensive study of the subject sponsored by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration between 1976 and 1983. More than 16,000 high school students in DeKalb County, Ga., were given a standard driver's ed course or an enhanced course or no formal driver training at all. Researchers found no significant reduction in crashes or traffic violations among the three groups. Subsequent reviews of the DeKalb data as well as independent studies both here and abroad have supported those findings.
The bottom line is that 16-year-olds, as a group, are terrible drivers. That's why states are moving toward graduated driver's licenses that do not confer full driving privileges until age 18. Meanwhile, graduated driver's licenses police the highest risk factors, such as driving with other teens in the car.
As with encouraging kids to drive better, decades of encouragement to "buckle up" had little impact on seat-belt use. "Click it or ticket" seat-belt laws, however, have been highly effective.
As Crain suggests, automakers and dealers should engage with the problem of dangerous teen drivers. They should start, however, by understanding what works and what doesn't.
DAN ALBERT, Marblehead, Mass. Albert writes about automotive safety, technology and society.