As of yesterday, first-time driver's license applicants ages 18 to 24 will have to complete a six-hour driving education course to get a license.
Previously, those over the age of 18 could take the state's written and driving tests through the Texas Department of Public Safety without classroom training. The new mandatory classes cost $30 to $50, and the schools must be approved by the Texas Education Agency. Click here for information on the new mandatory classes, including a statewide, city-by-city list of those certified to offer the adult courses.
The course contains information on highway signs; Texas traffic laws; alcohol and drug awareness; and distractions, such as driving while talking on a cell phone. Those who complete the course won't have to take the written exam but will have to pass the driving skills test.
DPS says 1.8 million original applicants between the ages of 18 and 24 applied for a license in 2008; however, it's unclear how many were first-time applicants – a significant number may have been applicants moving to Texas from another state.
Officials didn't know whether Texas is alone in mandating an adult driving education class â€” California, Florida and New York don't, according to the Web sites of those states' licensing departments.
The voluntary national program “Alive at 25” is used in several states, including Colorado. That program seeks to educate teens and young adults about driving hazards they could face.
Defensive driving courses and drug and alcohol driving awareness programs don't count toward the new requirement. The new law â€” passed during the 2009 legislative session â€” does not change the rules for 15- to 17-year-olds, who must take a driving education course that requires 32 hours of classroom time, seven hours of driving observation and seven hours of driving.
It also doesn't affect drivers 18 to 24 who first were licensed in other states and are seeking a license in Texas.
According to a 2008 report by the National Highway Traf fic Safety Administration, younger drivers are less likely to buckle up and more likely to be distracted, speed and drive too fast for conditions. Nationally, the fatal collision rate for those 21 to 24 years old was 47.8 fatal crashes per 100,000 drivers; that figure drops to 32 for those ages 25 to 34, according to the report.
Driving education schools lobbied the Legislature to get the bill passed. Driver education courses for teens can cost up to $450, and 15- to 17-year-olds can't drive from midnight to 5 a.m. or have more than one nonfamily member in the car with them for a year after getting their licenses. More teens had been avoiding those rules â€” and the safe habits they were meant to instill–by waiting until they turned 18 to apply for a license.