A studied approachto teen driver safety
Even as sparse funding forces schools to concentrate on offering the “essential” courses, we need to ask what’s a more essential class for teenagers than driver education.When comparing U.S. students’ performance in math or science against that of their peers from other countries, it’s easy to paint the struggles of our schools as a crisis. But then our failure to train students as safe drivers would be an epidemic: Automobile accidents are still the leading cause of deaths among 16- to 19-year-olds in the United States.John and Dorothy Johnson of Parachute are trying to help the Garfield County School District Re-2 change that. The Johnsons asked the Re-2 School Board for a classroom where they could teach drivers ed, and the board will consider their request at its next meeting.There are several compelling reasons for the board to say yes, even as standardized testing, tight budgets and growing enrollments force schools to concentrate on the core of their academic programs. Granting a classroom for driver education represents at least a start toward making the highways safer for young drivers – and for the general public traveling the same roads as the area’s new drivers. It’s especially relevant coursework given how spread out the district is and the importance of the car in the life of the average Re-2 student.The school district works with a driver education company in Rifle to train drivers in the summer. But the Johnsons’ plan to offer classes twice a week for 10 weeks, plus a weekend driving school for students with scheduling conflicts, comes closer to the reality of driving: Just like academics, driving is a year-round responsibility, and the more time students spend immersing themselves in the practices and thought patterns of safe driving, the better drivers they’ll learn to be. And following that logic, students in driver education courses earn their learner’s permits a year earlier, allowing them another year to learn and reinforce safe habits.However, a driver education course at school can only represent a start, particularly if enrollment is optional. Parents and students should weigh the costs – such as extra fees – and potential benefits of the program carefully before accepting the additional responsibility of enrollment. Also, we encourage companies and residents to look at ways to help make the driver education program more effective, perhaps even asking themselves whether being a good student justifies an insurance break more than accepting the responsibility of driver education: It seems as if insurance companies could see the benefit of training drivers better at a younger age, which would drive down insurance rates in the long run and maybe prompt their instituting a lower rate for students in driver education.But the most responsibility falls on the students who enroll. In order for the program to work, they must take it as seriously as any of their other courses. Because while their future well might depend on their diligence in AP calculus, their very lives might depend on driver education.
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Guest commentary: Recovering our friend from Crystal River was something we had to do; he would have done the same for us
I’m writing these words in the aftermath of the death of our friend in an attempt to make some sense of the last few days, as well as to tell the details of the events up to and after Chason Russell’s death on the Crystal River.