A new state audit shows that of $32 million in fees collected to fund driver education for Georgia teens over the last three years, none of the money has gone for that purpose.
Motor vehicle crashes are the No. 1 cause of teen deaths in the U.S., and in 2005 the Georgia Legislature passed “Joshua’s Law,” named for a teen who died after losing control of his truck on a wet road two years earlier.
Joshua Brown had never taken driver training classes, which cover hydroplaning as well as other emergency situations. His parents resolved to make driver education a higher priority for Georgia teens and to make such training more affordable, and they persuaded the General Assembly to act.
The law states that youths who want to get a license at age 16 must complete a certified driver’s education course. Teens who opt out of training, or cannot afford it, have to wait until they are 17 to take the licensing test.
The law added 5 percent to traffic violation fees in Georgia, and was expected to raise $10 million a year to underwrite school-based driver education or cover scholarships for accredited driving schools.
To date, only $8 million of the $57.3 million in total fee collections since fiscal year 2006 has gone to the Georgia Driver’s Education Commission, whose purpose is to maximize participation in driver’s education and training and accident reduction.
And over the past three fiscal years, nothing has been appropriated to the commission, according to the audit released Wednesday by the Georgia Department of Audits and Accounts.
Bob Wilson, director of the Georgia chapter of the National Safety Council, called the audit ‘’disappointing but not surprising.’’
“Teen lives are being lost because money collected for driver education was never requested [by the commission] or never allocated,’’ Wilson said.
The $32 million collected has been left in the state general fund and used for other purposes, the audit found.
Georgia Health News wrote about the fund diversion in June. Here’s a link to Marcie McClellan’s GHN article.
The Driver’s Education Commission historically has granted funds taken from fees collected to local school systems and libraries to create or enhance driver training programs.
The state audit said that while the number of “bricks and mortar’’ driver training schools in Georgia has increased since 2008 by 8 percent, the number of high school programs has decreased, probably because of the commission “no long being able to provide grants to assist these programs or start new ones.’’