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Course helps certify new, teen drivers

Sheriff’s offices teach free safe driving program

POSTED: March 10, 2013 11:34 p.m.

With only a few months to go until the end of the 2012-2013 school year, Northeast Georgia’s 15- and 16-year olds might be wondering where and when the task of earning a driver’s license could happen this summer.
One program available to students is “Joshua’s Law” teen driver safety program through the Hall County Sheriff’s Office.

And parents — it’s free.

But though the driving instructors are county sheriff’s offices and school resource officers teaching the classroom work, the task of giving the teen physical driving experience and exercises is the responsibility of the parents in this program.

Hall County Sheriff’s Office deputies are able to certify teens for meeting the qualifications of “Joshua’s Law.” This requirement is that a new driver must take 30 hours of classroom instruction and 40 hours of driving supervised by a parent before they are granted a Class D driver’s license at age 16.

“We offer 30 hours of classroom time,” said Cpl. Vic Gazaway of the Hall County Sheriff’s Office. He emphasized that only course work is offered, not actual driving instruction.

After completing the classroom course, a student may be able to obtain a valid Georgia learner’s driving permit. Along with parents, a driving log must be completed and parents need to perform driving exercises when their teen is driving.

These classes are also convenient for home-schoolers and teens living outside Hall County, Gazaway said.

“This is only a dent in the bucket for those who are eligible for driving permits,” he said.

Gazaway said new teen drivers today face usual circumstances because of technology.

“The state law is clear: Do not text and drive,” he said.

“I remember back in my time we had a radio to contend with and we didn’t think about how many people we had in our vehicles,” said Gazaway. Today, with laws against texting and vehicle occupancy limits, it might seem that the number of teen crashes might have lessened.

But the truth is more than 2,700 U.S. teens ages 16-19 were killed and almost 290,000 treated and released from emergency room departments for injuries suffered in motor-vehicle crashes, according to a 2010 study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Teens at most risk include:

  • Males: In the CDC report, the motor vehicle deaths rate for male drivers and passengers ages 16 to 19 was almost two times that of their female counterparts.
  • Teens driving with teen passengers: The presence of teen passengers increases the crash risk of unsupervised teen drivers. The risk increases the number of teen passengers.
  • Newly licensed teens: Crash risk is particularly high during the first months of licensure.
  • Teens are more likely than older drivers to underestimate dangerous situations.
  • Teens are more likely to speed and allow shorter headways than older drivers.
  • Among male drivers between 15 and 20 years of age, of those involved in fatal crashes, 39 percent were speeding at the time of the crash and 25 percent were drinking.
  • In a 2011 national survey, 24 percent of teens reported they had ridden with a driver who had been drinking.
  • In 2010, 56 percent of drivers aged 15 to 20 were killed in motor vehicle crashes after drinking and driving and not wearing a seat belt.
  • Teens have the lowest seat belt use. According to the CDC, only 54 percent of high school students report wearing seat belts.
  • Half of teen deaths from motor vehicles crashes occurred between 3 p.m. and midnight and 55 percent occurred on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

“We do incorporate stories that have come up in traffic situations ... especially about texting and driving,” said Gazaway.

He said statistics are showing that the distracted driver is especially at risk.

As long as Gazaway remembers, the Hall County Sheriff’s Office has offered free driving safety classes as a public service for the community, he said.

For information on driving safety programs in Hall County, contact Gazaway at vgaza@hallcounty.org.


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