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Teens learn driver's safety during summer

Traffic Safety Education classes are being offered by the high school for student throughout the summer months
With five full sessions being offered, there's plenty of opportunity for kids to take the Traffic Safety Education training through Crook County High School this summer.
   New laws implemented in Oregon over the last year are making it more difficult for teens to obtain a drivers license. Taking a driver education program can make the process easier.
   "The 1999 Legislature passed laws to strengthen license requirements and improve driver training because teens are twice as likely as other drivers to be involved in fatal and injury crashes," said Lorna Youngs, manager of the Oregon Department of Transportation Driver and Motor Vehicle Services Division.
   To help make sure that teens have ample opportunity to learn how to safely operate a vehicle, the school district is offering a behind the wheel Traffic Safety Education course for the summer. Sessions run June 19 through July 6; July 9 through July 25; July 26 through August 13 and August 14 through August 30.
   For a cost of $75, with reduced rates applying for those who qualify, the training is readily affordable for most any student who has a driving permit. Sessions are open continuously from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. making it possible for up to 24 students to participate during any particular session.
   A total of four instructors offer about a dozen daily sessions and students need only sign up at the high school.
   "We have four drivers: Lorie Woehl, Chuck Gates, Rosie Honl and Chris Felton, and they're doing a great job." said Steve Turner, director of driver education. "We can accommodate a lot of kids right now, and we have a lot of openings." .
   Turner added that many students who already have drivers licenses are taking advantage of the classes as a way to reduce insurance rates, but this option won't be available for long.
   "The thing that's important for kids to know right now is that this year the State will reimburse us for kids who already have their license, to take this class. Next year that won't happen because of the changing laws, and we won't be able to offer this class to kids who already have licenses."
   Turner emphasized that the object behind the course is not to flunk students, but rather to make sure kids gain the skills they need_ meaning that students will have the option of retaking the course if they don't pass the first time through. "If kids don't pass the first session," he said. "...we'll put him in the next session and keep doing that until he passes."
   Keith Flowers is among the first students taking advantage of the summer training. He said he was taking the course to get his license and on his third day, he feels he's making progress. "Ms. Woehl is really calm and collected, and she doesn't lose control. Both her and Mr. Gates have a lot of patience and so that makes it a lot easier to learn how to drive," Flowers said.
   Bret Wee has also been on the road with driver instruction for three days and he said the experience is rewarding for him as well. "It's my first time driving and I don't know very much about anything, so I'm learning," Wee said. "Driver education is important for kids because it helps you become a safer driver, and it helps with insurance rates as well."
   Anyone who has tried teaching a teen how to drive will understand the patience the task requires.
   Instructor Lorie Woehl indicated that driver education is often the best way to go for teens _ and parents alike.
   "I believe that it's better sometimes to learn to drive with someone you're not related to. Sometimes it's easier for a person outside the family to have the necessary patience with a young driver," she said. "The teenage years are difficult enough already. Relationships sometimes can get strained, and they can get even more strained when you introduce the driver training factor into the picture."
   For Woehl, a grade school music teacher during the school year, spending the summer as a driving instructor is rewarding, and it gives her a chance to catch up on students she taught in grade school.
   "I like to see their progress. Already in three days they've made a lot of progress," she said. "These guys were so nervous on the first day, they've already mellowed out. They're driving better, their starts and stops are smoother. That's pretty neat."
   The Department of Motor Vehicles lists that anyone under the age of 18 applying for a driver license needs to:
   3 Have held an Oregon instruction permit for at least six months
   3 Certify with parental verification that the teen has at least 50 hours of supervised driving experience
   3 Complete an ODOT-approved traffic safety education course (offered through a private driving school, or through a school, school district or Educational Service District) OR certify an additional 50 hours of driving experience as described above.
   3 Provisional licenses restrict the age and number of passengers that a driver under the age of 18 may have in a vehicle as well as the nighttime hours when the teenager may drive.
   3 Oregonians under 18 years of age who apply for their first driving privileges also need to show proof of school attendance, completion of school, or exemption from attendance before DMV will issue them a permit or a driver license.
   With the CCHS program, students gain an average of 12 hours instruction during a session with six hours observation and six hours driving behind the wheel.
   Two students are scheduled per session and they alternate driving behind the wheel. Instruction includes techniques in the high school parking lot using cones as well as around neighborhoods in the area.
   "It's great experience for the kids because we do a lot of intense instruction," Woehl concluded. Driver education will also be offered throughout the upcoming school year.
   For more information about the CCHS Traffic Safety Education program call Turner at 416-6900, ext. 1156.