AUSTIN, Texas (FOX 7 Austin) - Parents lost the option of teaching their kids the rules of the road in 2009. State lawmakers who voted for the change argued it would make roads safer. HB 409 would make a U-turn on that decision, returning the parental testing option.
The bill was filed by Woodville Republican James White.
"Well we trust our parents with the responsibility of finding the right educational format for their children, if its home school, charter school, public school, we trust them making decisions about the medical care of their youth. We trust parents in a variety of ways,” said Rep. White.
Putting parents back in the passenger seat for road tests does not eliminate the current requirement for completing a driver's ed course. That includes 32 hours of classroom work and 44 hours practicing behind the wheel. Representative White believes HB 409 will address a big concern voiced by parents- long lines and long waits at testing centers.
An attempt was made in 2014, to ease the gridlock at DPS testing centers by allowing driving schools to give that final road test. But not every school in Texas is certified to do it and the cost is a little bit more. The owner of Vista Ridge Driving School, Sam Shotts told FOX 7 Austin the wait time problem could be addressed by giving them more authority.
"What we do now with the third party testing is put the paper in an envelope, give it back to the applicant, and the applicant goes back and stands in line at DPS,” said Shotts.
This federal study is a big reason why Shotts opposes HB 409.
The report released in 2007 concluded; "there is evidence to suggest that the parent taught driver education program has a negative influence on the overall safety of novice drivers in Texas, especially in terms of young driver crash involvement."
"I think the bill is misplaced, I think the intentions are honorable, but I think the results will be catastrophic,” said Shotts.
Despite that assessment by Shotts, Representative White remains unconvinced his plan is bad idea. "The statistics don’t say that Parent taught parent testing is inherently more dangerous for our roads, it’s just the statistics don’t say that,” said White.
Representative White says his bill will prevent lawmakers from having to allocate money to build more DPS testing centers. And it would help rural families who have no other option but to use a DPS testing center. But Sam Shotts pointed out that his instructors are prevented by law from testing family members; and he thinks that’s a good thing.
The bill is awaiting a hearing in the House Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee.