ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Lots of people complain there are too many bad drivers on the road, and teens get the worst rap for it. But as KRQE News 13 discovered on Special Assignment, teens may know the rules of the road better than most adults.
Whether it’s blowing through red lights, ignoring road signs, or simply not knowing what to do, bad drivers are everywhere. And it may make you wonder, how well do New Mexicans actually know the rules of the road?
“It’s like anything you do, you become complacent, all of a sudden the standards start going down and down,” said Jose Hurtado, Senior Instructor at Duke City Driver’s Education School near Wyoming and Paseo.
His job is to teach the state’s newest and youngest drivers the ins-and-outs of driving before they’re handed a state issued drivers license.
It’s a big responsibility.
According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, new teen drivers ages 16-17 are three times as likely as adults to be involved in a deadly crash.
“It’s like I tell my kids ‘A good day of driving: no accidents, no tickets.’” It’s a goal that starts in driver’s education, and teens are paying attention.
KRQE News 13 found out from the state those who do pass the written driving test on the first attempt, broken down by age.
Over the last two years, 15 year olds had a 78.5 percent passing rate in New Mexico, a number that decreases as drivers get older. People ages 20 to 30 passed the Motor Vehicle Division’s written test just 60 percent of the time.
“When teens are first getting into driver’s education they’re excited, they want their driver’s license, they’re engaged in the process,” said Michael Sandoval, Director of the Modal Division for New Mexico Department of Transportation.
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The state’s DOT believes New Mexico’s three-stage process for new drivers, the Graduated Driver Licensing program, or GDL, produces more skilled drivers.
Minors must complete driver’s education, pass a written test, do 50 hours of supervised driving, plus 10 hours at night, and then, pass the road test. That gets teens a provisional license for a year before they can get a full-fledged driver’s license.
“I feel like I’m learning a lot of information really quick, it’s pretty fun,” said 16-year-old driver’s education student, Olivia Stewart. She can’t wait to get behind the wheel. “Now that I’m getting more involved with school, I feel like it’s a lot more important that I can get myself places,” Stewart added.
Like her peers, she’s got a long road ahead.
Hurtado said some teens come to class with misconceptions about the rules. In at least one case, he said a student thought driving 10 mph above the posted speed limit was a legal grace period.
Hurtado adds adults should be setting a better example on the road for younger generations. Even though stats show they know the rules, car crashes are still the leading cause of death for teens, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Knowing the rules is different than following them.
“Young people sometimes are a little more risky, they engage in more risky behavior,” explained Ben Cloutier, Communications Director for the New Mexico Taxation and Revenue Department.
When asked if she’ll feel confident behind the wheel, 16-year-old Stewart responded, “Definitely after practice, I’m gonna know exactly what to do.”
Hurtado hopes what he teaches in class will stick with students for the long haul. At the end of the day, he said he wants his students to be safe drivers and come home alive each day they’re on the road.
In the first nine months of 2017, there were 272 fatal crashes in New Mexico.
- Talking to your teen about safe driving habits – Facts & Stats
- New Mexico Monthly Traffic Fatality Report, 2017
- Rates of Motor Vehicle Crashes, Injuries, and Deaths in Relation to Driver Age, United States, 2014 – 2015
NCL Exam Results by Age Between 5/25/2015 and 9/30/2017