Driver’s education program applauded

Published 10:04 pm Friday, November 9, 2012

There were days when driver education merely encompassed rules of the road, the meaning of traffic signs and reminders to check your blind spot before changing lanes.

Those days are long gone. As teens become more and more tech-laden at younger ages, the likelihood that a freshly minted driver will already possess a cellphone, portable music player and other accessories continues to rise steadily.

With those technological advances comes a hazard so enormous it almost warrants an entirely new unit in a driver education course — distracted driving because of devices in the driver’s hands.

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Statistics bear out the gravity of the situation. Eleven percent of all drivers under the age of 20 involved in fatal crashes in the United States were distracted at the time of the crash, and forty percent of American teens say they have been in a car when the driver used a cellphone in a way that put people in danger, according to research compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Teens are far from the only ones who drive distracted, but research shows their age group has the largest proportion of distracted drivers.

One local high school recently took steps to nip the problem in the bud — before teens even get their licenses.

Driver education students at Nansemond River High School were asked to send a text message while weaving in and out of traffic cones in a golf cart. They also tried the experiment while wearing goggles that simulate what a drunk driver sees — another danger that tempts teens — as well as while doing both.

Many a traffic cone fell prey to the golf cart’s wheels over the two-day program, which involved about 400 students. We hope students saw the crushed traffic cones as a warning that they could have been a guardrail, a building, another car or a pedestrian.

School Resource Officer Andre Weaver devised the program with a teacher last year. Our applause goes to Weaver and others involved with this program for helping teens recognize the dangers that lurk in the driver’s seat.