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License to Ride
Potential Teen Drivers have New Requirements and Old Worries
September, 2006 - Issue #23
Now that the William S. Hart High School District no longer requires driver
Now that the William S. Hart High School District no longer requires driver's ed for graduation, companies like Right Way Driving School provide instruction to teens not willing to wait for a class on campus to open up.
Ahhh, the open road: The wind in your hair and your favorite tunes blasting from the stereo. There's nothing like the feeling of being behind the wheel of a car. It's a teenage dream. It signifies freedom and a chance to cut loose from mom and dad.

Sophomore year? Forget the Algebra II; sign me up for Driver's Ed.

Every year a rumor circulates among the high school students that the State of California will be changing the driving age. It's enough to send an innocent freshman into fits. Some requirements have changed, but the driving age has remained at 16 for as long as anyone can remember. The changes that have been made are minor, designed to give young drivers a little more experience behind the wheel before heading out into the open road with a car full of friends.

It's called the provisional license. It restricts driving privileges for the first 12 months for those under the age of 18. These young drivers must be accompanied by a licensed driver 25 years of age or older for one year when transporting passengers under 20 years of age and restricts driving between the hours of 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. There are exceptions to the new law but the changes are the state's way of helping parents set some boundaries for their new drivers. According to the Automobile Club of Southern California, traffic crashes are the leading cause of death among teens in the United States. In California alone, nearly 20,000 teen drivers are injured or killed every year.

To get a provisional license, teens must complete 25 hours of classroom instruction and complete a six-hour behind-the-wheel driver's training course. When the classroom section is complete, a permit can be given to a 15 AŻ year old provided they pass the Department of Motor Vehicles written exam. Teens have three chances to pass the written exam for one year. If not, the process will start all over again. The biggest mistake a teen makes is thinking they know the rules of the road. The key is to study, study and study. You can pick up a booklet at the DMV that contains information and sample tests.

Once teens have a permit in hand, they can begin the driving portion of the requirement and also drive with their parents or a licensed driver over the age of 25. At 16 and with driver's training behind them, permit holders can take the driving test at the DMV for their provisional license.

The William S. Hart Union High School District used to require driver's education for graduation. That requirement was dropped last year, but the district still offers driver's education on most campuses during the school year and during summer school. Vicki Engbrecht, director of curriculum, said it was always hard for students to get into the driver's education classes because of the high demand, but once the policy was dropped, many students are still able to take advantage of the free course. Some teens are anxious to get going and instead of waiting for a class to open at the high school, many are enrolling in private driving schools. It's a good investment and a great birthday present for your 15 year old. There are several driving schools in town including one offered by the Automobile Club and an online course through the DMV.

Terry Carter has been in the driver's education business for 15 years and is the owner of Right Way Driving School. Maybe you've seen his shiny Volkswagen Bugs on the street. Inside you'll find a wide-eyed teenager diligently watching the road while a cool-eyed instructor sits in the passenger seat.

For $325, student drivers are able to take both the classroom instruction and driver's training at Right Way. More than 14,000 young adults have come through his classes, Carter said. He said the more a young driver practices behind the wheel of a car, the better drivers they will be and advises parents to take their young drivers on the road as often as possible. "Take time and remember what it was like when you were learning to drive," he said. Carter would also like the public to be patient when coming across student drivers. "[The students] can be a little nervous and no one needs to be in that big of a hurry," he said.

Sixteen-year-old Shane Siezega recently completed a course at Right Way and is planning to take his driving test this summer. This Hart High School junior said he waited a while to start the class because he was extremely busy with school and volleyball. Besides, "all [his] friends were already driving and it saved [him] gas money," he said with a grin.

His mom, Bonnie, said she didn't feel a need to push any of her children to get a license the minute they turned 16. "There was no hurry and once they got their permit," she said, "we still required them to drive with us for at least eight months so we could see how they were doing, if they were comfortable behind the wheel and were safe drivers."

No doubt about it. Sending your child out the door with a big smile on their face and a driver's license in their wallet is a bone-chilling experience for parents. But a driver's license is just another step in your child's path to adulthood. Here is some advice from parents who have been there that may help ease this transition:

• Make sure you know where your child is going and when they are due back.

• While cell phones are a great way to keep in touch with your teen, they should be turned off when he or she is driving. They can always pull over and return a call.

• One parent yanked the stereo out of the car for the first 6 months her teen began driving. Looking for a CD or changing the radio is a huge distraction.

• Make sure you teen maintains a B average in school. The lower insurance bill will be welcome.

• Try to avoid the urge to buy your son or daughter a car, especially a fast one. I know, they will tell you so-and-so got a new car for their 16th birthday. Don't fall for it. Maybe there is an extra family car they can borrow.

• Make sure you tell your friends and neighbors that your teen is driving and what car they will be using. Santa Clarita is a small town. Someone will see them doing something stupid and they will call you.

• Bad grades, breaking a rule, talking back; whatever they do, remember, parents have the power to take away the keys to the car.
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