(WJBK) - Back in 1996, then Rep. Dan Gustafson succeed in revamping the teenager driver license requirements in Michigan designed to save lives, reduce accidents and force 16 and 17 year drivers to get more experience before they get their license.
In town the other day and asked to reflect on his legislation, now private citizen Mr. Gustafson reports, "it's working great (and) has been adopted in all 50 states." Michigan was the first to require young drivers to spend 50 hours behind the wheel with a parent or guardian. They are required to take classroom courses along with the traditional road courses which was in stark contrast to the old law which basically said, once you turn 16 and you passed a driver's education course you got a full license and the accident rates reflected that lack of training.
The former lawmaker says in 1996 based on a U of M study they expected the crash rate to dip between 10% and 15%. But instead, as other states adopted the program, the number skyrocketed to over 40%.
Mr. Gustafson says young drivers have the mental and reflex abilities to be great drivers but what they lack is the experience. "It's like an airplane pilot. They have to have hours in the air before they solo." The former Democrat tells young driver it's similar to mastering video games. The first few times they play they are not very good but with practice, "they destroy the game and move onto another one."
He admits the advent of texting and cell phone usage could reduce some of the accident numbers for young drivers but he says, "that's an issue all by itself" that states are addressing now.