A Brief History of Driver Education

  • Driver Education was a comprehensive program enacted in Delaware in 1934.  The Delaware Safety Council pioneered this important aspect of education by sponsoring classroom instruction in several schools.  The first behind-the-wheel instruction was introduced during the 1935-1936 school year.  A fleet of eight (8) cars was made available for the pilot year of behind-the-wheel instruction.  The fleet of cars, courtesy of Mr. Hugh Gallagher, owner of the Union Park Motor Company in Wilmington, Delaware made this course possible.  The comprehensive program continued from 1936-1942 with both classroom and behind-the-wheel instruction.  In 1942-1943, the driver education program was suspended due to World War II; however, in 1942-1943 the program regained its status.

    In 1948 comprehensive driver education was finally offered by all public secondary schools in Delaware and the program has grown steadily in quality and number of participants ever since.  The driver education program offered by the State of Delaware has received national attention since its inception and continues to gain recognition for its contributions to traffic safety education.

    Driver Education initiatives:

    • 1934 Delaware Safety Council began classroom instruction
    • 1935-1936 First Behind-The-Wheel instruction
    • 1935-1942 Comprehensive Driver Education Program in Delaware
    • 1939-1940 First dual control car produced by Theodore Burton Co.
    • 1944-1945 Seventeen high schools had 555 pupils enrolled in Driver Education
    • 1945-1946 Twenty-three high schools had 878 pupils enrolled in Driver Education with four full-time and one part-time teacher
    • 1946-1947 Program did not start until November of the school year due to financial difficulties.  Support came from the Delaware Safety Council, State Highway Department, State Department of Public Instruction, and the Rotary Clubs of Wilmington, Laurel and Middletown.
    • 1947-1948 State Legislature appropriated $50,000 to the State Board of Education
    • 1947-1948 George R. Miller, State Superintendent, State Department of Public Instruction appointed the State Driver Education Advisory Committee
    • 1947-1948 Thirty-two high schools had 976 pupils enrolled in Driver Education; 94% of the state high schools
    • 1948-1949 Thirty-four high school, 100% of all high schools offered the course with 1206 enrolled
    • 1949-1950 Seven full-time teachers and one supervisor were staffed
    • 1949-1950 First National Conference on High School Driver Education held at Jackson's Mill, West Virginia
    • 1967-1968 The nonpublic secondary schools were also offering a State Department of Public Instruction approved driver education course
    • 1999 House Bill - Graduated Driver Licensing Laws enacted
    • 2000 House Bill 138 requiring a minimum academic standard for driving eligibility
    • 2006 House Bill 63 outlawing cell phone use during the GDL period
    • 2006 House Bill 256 changes the age from 15 years 10 months to 16 years old for licensing eligibility and requires parental involvement during the level one learner's permit.  Teen drivers must log and record 50 hours of driving experience with a parent.
    • 2008 Senate Bill 248 mandates consequences for parent who knowingly permit their teen driver to drive unsupervised during the specified times when the law states supervision is required.

    The most recognizable/remembered leaders of Driver Education are:

    • Mr. Hugh Gallagher, Owner Union Park Motor Company.  Provided a fleet of eight (8) Pontiac cars for the Driver Education course.
    • Captain Clarence K. Lynch, Delaware State Police.  Conducted a Driver Education course at Georgetown High School.  1944-1945 conducted a study of 300 drivers and found that there were 46% more violations with the 150 untrained vs. the 150 trained drivers.
    • Theodore Burton Company.  Furnished the first dual control car for Driver Education.
    • Dr. Robert C. Stewart, former Assistant State Superintendent in charge of Secondary Schools.  Compiled a study "An Evaluation of the Driver Education Program in the State of Delaware in Terms of the Performance Records of the Participants in this Program".  The results of this comprehensive study indisputably show that those individuals having driver education had a statistically significant superior performance record over those who had not had this training.
    • Dr. George Miller, State Superintendent.  Appointed the State Driver Education Advisory Committee.
    • Charles Minnick and Phil McMonigal were two of the first instructors in driver education
    • Bob Massiferri, Department of Public Instruction, head of driver education 1963
    • Dave Hipp began teaching in 1964 and was a President of DDSEA
    • Frank Jelich, replaces Bob Massiferri at the Department of Public Instruction
    • Dr. M. Dean Betts, Education Associate, Department of Education
    • Steve Cebulka, Driver Education Teacher, William Penn High School.