New York shouldn’t put convenience over safety.
But that’s exactly what Gov. Andrew Cuomo would be doing if he signs a bill (A5874/S3965) that would eliminate the requirement that student drivers take four to five hours of in-person classroom instruction for a pre-licensing course and allow the program to replaced with a course available totally online.
The internet is certainly a great way to learn about many things, as evidenced by the growth of online colleges and other instructional programs that people can complete in the convenience of their own homes, on their own computers, and at their own pace.
There are a number of professional programs that can be taught without the benefit of in-person instruction or hands-on application.
Driving a car, however, is one of those activities that requires more than just reading some materials and taking an online test.
The driving course teaches basic rules of the road, basic driving skills and defensive driving skills.
Now, can you learn what the rules are by reading them online? Can you learn the difference between a stop sign and a yield sign online? Sure.
But there’s more to driving instruction than words in a book.
Learning to drive requires someone to be there to bring up issues that student drivers might encounter that won’t be on an online course. It requires the ability of students to ask questions about some of the challenges they might face on the road and to have someone experienced in the rules and practices of the road to give them practical examples and answers.
Those of us who learned to drive the traditional way know how valuable it was to be able to ask questions of someone more knowledgeable than ourselves.
That’s an intangible benefit that you just can’t get from an online course.
Creating a shortcut for the convenience of future drivers doesn’t just raise concerns about whether the driver will be adequately prepared for the experience of driving.
It also raises concerns about how that preparation, or lack thereof, will affect the safety of others on the road.
While online technology has improved in recent years, it’s no substitute for personal instruction.
You wouldn’t trust an online course to prepare your airline pilot or nurse or auto mechanic. Why would you trust it the prepare someone for the complex practice of driving a car?
Driving instruction is just too important for public safety to trust to the convenience of computer instruction.
Gov. Cuomo should veto this bill.