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July 24, 2011

Editorial: CPR requirement may be too much for Ohio drivers

The Columbus Dispatch

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Of course it would be beneficial if every 16- and 17-year-old Ohio driver knew CPR and could render assistance to injured people they might encounter on the road.

It also would be great if they all could change a tire, patch a pothole, pass 10th-grade trigonometry and had a good start on a foreign language. But that hardly justifies tacking arbitrary requirements onto their driving privileges.

State Rep. Cheryl Grossman, R-Grove City, is sponsoring a bill requiring new drivers under 18 to be certified in CPR and first aid before they can get their driver's licenses. She says she wants to avoid a repeat of a tragedy in which a young driver struck a woman who was jogging and then didn't know how to help her.

Grossman has admirable intentions, but tacking a new, universal requirement onto the already involved process of getting a driver's license is not the best solution.

Ohio teens who wish to drive must enroll in a training course, which can be expensive, and practice behind the wheel for at least 50 hours over a period of six months. Their goal is to gain the skills and the legal understanding to safely operate a car. Expecting them to be prepared to be first responders at accident scenes is a big jump from there.

That's not to say a push for more CPR training is a bad idea. The American Heart Association has called for mandatory CPR training to become a standard part of high-school curricula, and it's not hard to see why. In communities where such training is widespread, as many as 43 percent of heart-attack victims survive, but in areas where relatively few residents are trained, the survival rate is 6 percent to 10 percent.

Encouraging society-wide CPR training would be a better idea. Grossman correctly points out that emergency training is available at low cost from local fire departments, the American Red Cross and the heart association.

But for new drivers, the focus should remain on learning to drive safely and responsibly.

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