Contrary to some expectations, parents of beginning drivers in states with graduated licensing voice overwhelming support for the programs. According to numerous surveys, large majorities of parents say they like phasing in driving privileges slowly and don't find this represents an inconvenience.
Now a new study finds that parents in Michigan strongly support a provision that requires them to provide extended supervised practice to their beginning drivers. This is an important component of a comprehensive graduated licensing program that's excluded from the laws in many states.
In April 1997, Michigan implemented the first graduated licensing provision in the United States that requires a responsible adult, usually a parent or guardian, to supervise beginners for a minimum of 50 hours, including at least 10 hours of night driving. "In legislative deliberations on graduated licensing, there was concern expressed as to parental acceptance of this requirement," says Patricia Waller of the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, lead author of the study.
To learn how the requirement was viewed, the researchers surveyed 814 parents or other certified supervisors of beginning drivers younger than 18 who were applying for intermediate licenses in July 1998. This was the point at which the adult had to provide certification of supervised practice. Most parents reported taking more time to supervise their students' driving than the state required. Sixty-one percent of parents reported going beyond the requirements, supervising their beginners for 51 to 100 hours. Seven percent reported more than 100 hours. In contrast, 23 percent said they complied with the minimum of 50 hours, and 9 percent reported less supervised driving than required.
The average time parents reported supervising their students' driving practice is 75 hours. When asked how many of these hours took place at night, 72 percent of parents again reported going beyond the state's 10-hour requirement. On average, the parents reported supervising 21 hours of night driving.
Asked about their overall views on graduated licensing, parents in Michigan echoed the sentiments in other states where such licensing programs are in effect. Ninety-seven percent reported an overall "good" or "very good" experience.
Waller points out there were "serious reservations about requiring extended supervised practice because of the increased burden on the parents and decreased independent teen mobility. The overwhelming parental approval of Michigan's graduated licensing program, including the supervision requirement, indicates parents are willing to accept the responsibility for assisting their youngsters in the learning process."