With the start of school in September also comes the start of driver education classes.
The classes are offered twice a year at Madras High School by the High Desert Drivers Education Program. Students must be ages 15-17, with a valid Oregon instructional permit.
The course includes 30 hours of classroom instruction, taught Mondays, from 5:30-8:30 p.m., Sept. 10 through Nov. 12, with an additional 1 1/2-hours of weekly driving time.
At a parent/student night, Sept. 9, at 6:30 p.m., students can schedule a driving time that fits their schedule.
"We serve 11 high schools, and 600 students in the tri-county area, and we're trying to get more Madras kids involved," said Rick Nickell, driver education manager.
The cost to take driver's education is $295, and scholarships are available.
"I know $295 is a lot of money, but the deductible for one collision is normally $500," Nickell said, noting that High Desert Drivers Ed is a nonprofit organization.
There are other big benefits. Students who complete the course get a discount on their auto insurance. The class also cuts the required hours of driving experience from 100 to 50 hours, when students go to apply for a driver's license at the Department of Motor Vehicles.
Scholarships, on a first-come, first-served basis, are available for students who qualify for the free and reduced-price lunch program. There are also a limited number of "hardship" scholarships for students with a parent who recently lost their job, etc.
Registration for the driver's ed class is also done online at www.hdesd.org (click services, drivers education, registration information). Payment may be made by Visa, MasterCard of American Express, or by sending a check (after registering) to High Desert Drivers Education Program, c/o High Desert ESD, 145 S.E. Salmon Ave., Redmond, OR 97756.
The program has a fleet of Prius and Honda Civic hybrid cars, along with some gas-only cars. "We talk about new technology, and what kinds of cars they will be driving in the future," Nickell said.
For students who already have a license, or are age 18, there is a licensed driver program, but the fee is the full $505 cost of the program. (For kids under 18, the state reimburses the program $210 per student).
This offers one-on-one instruction for students who may have gotten a ticket and want to show they have had driver's safety training.
Requirements to get a license for those under age 18 have changed over the years. When students go to DMV to apply, they must: have an instruction permit, have completed 100 driving hours (or 50 with driver's ed), bring proof of their legal name, legal presence in the U.S., their address, and pass the driver's test.
Even after teens get their provisional driver's license, they must follow restrictions for the first six months: don't drive with a passenger under age 20 who is not a family member, don't drive between midnight and 5 a.m. (unless going from home and work).
Restrictions for the second six months include: don't drive with more than three passengers under age 20 who aren't family members, don't drive between midnight and 5 a.m. (unless from home to work).
"Since it overhauled driver training about a decade ago, Oregon has had a reduction of more than 55 percent in the number of 16-year-olds behind the wheel when someone is killed or injured in a crash, and a drop of almost 40 percent for 17-year-olds," said Troy Costales, chairman of the Governor's High way Safety Association.
"The lives we can save, and the injuries we can save -- that's the bottom line," Nickells agreed.