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Dancing for the state

August 1, 2010

Ohio law requires new drivers under the age of 18 to complete a state-approved driver education course consisting of “a minimum of 24 hours of classroom instruction and 8 hours behind the wheel.” So it should come as no surprise that there are a host of private companies providing state-approved driver training. But what are these companies really providing – selling – and what is the consumer really buying?

My son is scheduled to begin the classroom portion of the “training” program – six four-hour classes held two evenings a week for three consecutive weeks. Wondering what occurs during each of those four-hour classes, he talked to a friend who recently completed his sentence … er, program.

It turns out the instructor showed movies and otherwise attempted to entertain fidgety kids for four hours at a stretch. Nothing of substance was taught. But nothing of substance was desired.

You see, the school is selling a completion certificate that the state will recognize. And the driver is purchasing the same. So the class is merely a ruse to satisfy some nanny regulation, and nothing more.

The beauty of this system (from the point of view of the private companies) is that, even though the movies shown during the class are available free online, only state-recognized companies can provide the certificate. And only the certificate matters.

Of course, the behind-the-wheel time is no more instructive. So the young driver is out 32 hours and the parent $300.

The only beneficiaries are the companies providing the classes. Oh, sure, plus some nanny do-gooders throughout Ohio who sleep a little more soundly knowing their regulation is still in effect.

My hope is that the real winner is the cause of freedom as young drivers quickly recognize another instance of silly government interventions and hold the state in contempt. I certainly hope they do not mindlessly play along, assuming that it is our lot to dance for the state whenever called to do so.

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