New laws encourage driver education
Each summer the next group of teenagers hit the roads to earn one of the most significant pieces of paper in their young life, their license.
"The license definitely allows more freedom," said driver's education student Casey Coates. "It allows me to drive to school, do errands, and go on dates without the parents as a chaperone."
Classes for this summer at Baldwin High School ended on June 27. Many of the young drivers will be finishing up their last driving sessions this week. According to instructor Mike Curran there were 72 students in the session. The students were one of the first classes to go through the new law changes made by the state last July 1.
The new laws make driver education a requirement for a 16-year-old to receive their regular driver's license. If a teenager does not take the course they cannot receive the Class C license until they are 17.
The law also changed the way the education courses were to be taught. The classes were previously based on lectures by the instructors but now the students read chapters from a book, show up to class and take a test on the chapter. With "outcome based testing" students must pass all 18 tests with an 80 percent or higher to pass the course.
Along with the written tests the students are required to drive six hours with their instructor. The student is tested on interstate driving, merging into traffic, and everybody's favorite, parallel parking.
"There is always some interesting experiences on the road," said Mike Curran, who is in his 19th year as driving instructor. "The problem is some of these kids come into driver education without any experience."
The restricted license is given to 15 year-olds after they complete driver education, drive 25 hours with a licensed passenger, and pass the state's driving test. Once the driver turns 16 they must complete an additional 25 hours of accompanied driving to receive their Class C license.
Curran said that the additional 25 hours that are required for the Class C license is the most crucial requirement.
"It is really important that parents take their kids out driving," said Curran. "At least take them to a parking lot and get them in the car. Driving sometimes take split second decisions, the decisions come easier with experience."
So break out the, "better stay off the sidewalks Billy Bob is learning to drive" jokes, because it is that time of year when the "Student Driver" cars are empty and the 15-year-old in the family starts asking for the keys.