(a) The Legislature finds and declares all of the following:
(1) To assist in reducing the number of fatalities involving youthful drivers, a minimum standard of six hours of behind-the-wheel driver training conducted by a public or private secondary school, or by a qualified instructor of a licensed private driving school, shall be established.
(2) According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, traffic crashes are the number one killer of teenagers. Per mile driven, teenage drivers are involved in accidents four times as often as adults.
(3) According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among youths 16 to 20 years of age. Nationwide, about 6,000 youths 16 to 20 years of age, die each year in traffic accidents. Teenage drivers represent about 7 percent of the country's population, but account for about 17 percent of the victims of fatal crashes.
(4) According to the Department of Motor Vehicles, during 1993, 4,163 people were killed and 315,184 were injured in traffic accidents across the state.
(5) According to the National Safety Council, driver error causes 69 percent of all automobile collisions. Annually, 11,900,000 accidents occur nationwide resulting in 2,000,000 injuries and 42,000 fatalities. Automobile accidents cost one hundred sixty-seven billion dollars ($167,000,000,000) annually.
(6) The Department of Motor Vehicles has introduced the first major revision of the driver's license test since 1933, in recognition of a need to require first-time drivers to pass an examination representative of the complex driving conditions confronting motorists throughout the state. A minimum of six hours of behind-the-wheel driver training conducted by a public or private secondary school, or by a qualified instructor of a licensed private driving school, is required to prepare the first-time driver under 18 years of age to pass this examination.
(b) The expressed purpose of the Legislature is that highway accidents can and must be reduced through the education and training of drivers prior to licensing, and that this instruction properly belongs in the high school curriculum on a basis of having comparable standards of instruction, quality, teacher-pupil ratio and class scheduling in driver education as in other courses in the regular academic program. Only through a high quality program of driver instruction can the greatest potential in traffic accident prevention be realized. Further, the state has a responsibility to share in the reasonable costs of providing those courses.
(Amended by Stats. 1996, Ch. 1045, Sec. 3.)