History Lesson: The National Birth of Driver Education at Penn State
If you pass the north parking lot at the Hintz Family Alumni Center, you’ll come upon this sign detailing the roots of driver education and the tale of Amos Neyhart.
According to this 2011 article by John Peatman from the University Archives, Neyhart was an assistant professor of industrial engineering at the university when his parked car was hit by a drunk driver. Due to the rise of vehicular accidents during the time period, Neyhart felt it was time to implement classes to teach teenagers and new drivers how to properly drive cars.
And thus, driver’s education courses were born.
A New York Times obituary for Neyhart says he began the courses at State College Area High School in 1932. Neyhart’s courses were the first of its kind in the United States, setting the precedent for what most high school students are required to take today.
Neyhart taught the course using his 1929 Graham-Paige and would then go on to pen a textbook on driver’s education called “The Safe Operation of an Automobile.” The New York Times obituary called him “an expert on automobile safety” and stated Neyhart helped college-aged students as well as those with disabilities stay safe on the road.
Neyhart was a graduate of Penn State, earning both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees here. He also served on national traffic safety committees under three presidents.
According to the obituary, Neyhart was from Williamsport, Pa., originally and died in State College on July 5, 1990.