Indiana State University Newsroom

Teacher of driver's ed teachers to assist in review of teen driving laws

September 9, 2009

An Indiana State University professor who has trained driver education teachers since the 1970s will work with a panel of state lawmakers examining whether new laws affecting teen motorists go far enough.

Stan Henderson, associate professor of health and safety, will serve as a consultant to a legislative study committee expected to begin meeting Sept. 24.

"It has become apparent that we need a more common standard for the delivery of driver education, a better understanding of traffic laws by teenagers and increased compliance by adults with new requirements for parental supervision of new drivers," said Henderson, president of the Indiana Driver Education Association and a consultant to the Indiana Department of Education and Indiana Criminal Justice Institute.

"The legislative study committee will research best practices in an effort to bring Indiana into the 21st century," he said. The committee is chaired by Rep. Terri Austin of Anderson. Other members include Sen. Tim Skinner of Terre Haute.

Being a high school teacher I have a keen interest in the safety of our young drivers. I am well aware of how these students feel about further restrictions. However, I am more concerned about their safety," Skinner said.

"Personally I welcome any information and data which is relevant to this discussion. An informed discussion will help the decision making process."

Henderson played a role in the adoption earlier this year of the first change in national driver education standards since the 1960s. The new standards, recommended by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, call on each state to:

• Establish a single agency to oversee teen driver education and publicly disclose results of periodic evaluations of public and private programs.
• Have driver education and training that meets or exceeds current nationally accepted standards with at least 45 hours of classroom training, 10 hours of behind-the-wheel instruction and 10 hours of in-car observation.
• Require instructors to complete a minimum 120-hour course of study with annual continued education and professional development and an annual driving record review.
• Require increased parental involvement in teen driver education, including a minimum of 50 hours of supervised practice driving and written agreements between teens and parents defining restrictions, privileges, rules and consequences that will serve as the basis for teens to earn progressively broader driving privileges.
• Have a formal system for communication and collaboration between the state driver education and training agency and driver licensing authority and development and implementation of tests to assess the ability of teen drivers to reduce driving risks.

In the forward to a 35-page document outlining the new driver education standards,NHTSA noted that motor vehicle crashes continue to be the leading cause of death for American teens, accounting for more than one-third of all deaths of 16- to 19-year-olds. The greatest crash rate is among 16-year-olds, who have the most limited driving experience and "an immaturity that often results in risk-taking behind the wheel," according to the document.

"Ultimately, it is the responsibility of parents to determine when their teenagers are ready to obtain a driver's license," said Henderson, who participated in a NHTSA conference where the new standards were adopted. "Parents also have a responsibility to help their teen become a safe driver."

Indiana's new teen driving laws, which took effect July 1, include a graduated driver's license, a ban on cell phone use, except to call 911, for those under 18 and a prohibition against overnight driving for the first six months after getting a license, except when traveling to work, school or religious events or if accompanied by a licensed driver 25 or older.

Beginning July 2010, Indiana teens must be 15 ½ years old to obtain a learner's permit and 16 ½ to get a driver's license. They will also be required to complete at least 50 hours of supervised driving practice, with at least 10 of those hours at night.

Photo: - Stan Henderson, coordinator of driver education at Indiana State University, instructs a young driver on the university's driver training course.(ISU/Tony Campbell)

Contact: Stan Henderson, associate professor of health and safety and coordinator, driver education programs, Indiana State University, 812-237-3074 or

Writer: Dave Taylor, media relations director, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3743 or