CyPix: Driver training in the 1930s

When cars began replacing carriages on American roads in the early 20th century, there was no formal system for educating new drivers, and, not surprisingly, the accident rate was high. A. R. Lauer was an Associate Professor in Psychology, who came to Iowa State College (University) in 1930 and performed research on driving safety. By the mid-1930s, Lauer was involved in cooperative work with the Motor Vehicle Department for the State of Iowa.

Nine students sit in individual dummy cars (with steering wheels and controls but no wheels) in a large classroom, while a teacher lectures from the front of the classroom pointing to a projected image of a car.

Students in driver training course sitting in dummy cars while a teacher lectures at the front of the classroom, 1938. University Photo Collection, Box 781.

In 1938, ISC’s President Charles E. Friley requested that the Psychology Department begin a driver education program for future teachers of driver’s training classes in public schools, and the program quickly became in high demand. Both the research and the training programs had a definite impact on the safety of Iowa roads. The following chart from Lauer’s report, Development of the driver education and research program at Iowa State College, shows a clear downward trend in the number of fatalities on Iowa highways from 1935 through 1955:

Line graph showing a clear downward trend in fatalities in Iowa from 1935 throug 1955.

Chart showing “Trend in Fatality Rates for Iowa” from A.R. Lauer’s report.


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