ATLANTA -- None of the $10 million collected yearly for teaching teens to be safer drivers has gone to the state’s training program since 2009, according to a state audit released Wednesday.
Instead, of the $57 million collected for the program, only $8 million went to driver safety. The rest went into the state treasury where it was used to pay for routine state government.
Reacting to a rash of teen traffic fatalities, legislators in 2005 enacted Joshua’s Law that added a 5 percent surcharge to traffic fines to support the development of a comprehensive training program. The same law also required 16-year-olds to take a 30-hour course to get a license.
The number of private training schools has mushroomed across the state since the law passed, according to the analysis prepared by the Department of Audits & Accounts. At the same time, some high schools that had offered training have stopped.
In 2007, lawmakers did appropriate half of the $5.7 million collected from the increased fines to the Georgia Driver’s Education Commission. The next two years, they appropriated less than one-third of that collected.
In all, the commission has received $8 million, or just 14 percent, of the total from fees since the law passed. With what money was available, the commission awarded grants to schools and libraries to make courses available at little or no cost to the public. It also funded staff within the Department of Driver Services responsible for evaluating the commercial courses and private training schools.
The auditors reported that the commission regularly briefs the Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget as well as the House and Senate appropriations committees and the fact none of the fee money is going to the commission as intended. The governor and lawmakers instead continue to use that money for other purposes.
One goal of the commission that remains unachievable without more money is development of ways to impact teens’ attitude about road safety, auditors found.