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Select Teen Drivers Get Chance For Intensive Training

MILLERSBURG -- As with many habits, good driving is best developed early.

With the hope of making that a reality in Holmes and Wayne counties, a partnership among Safe Communities, Hummel Group, Westfield Insurance and Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course will give 20 teens an opportunity to improve their driving skills and share their experience with peers and parents.

Donation of the $7,000 participation fees for the Honda Teen Defensive Driving Program was facilitated by Hummel partner Dave Coil, a Safe Communities member who previously secured $5,000 from Westfield to support traffic safety initiatives.

I've heard such great things about it. "The participants come back with suck knowledge and practical experience," said Safe Communities program assistant Kat Williard.

The program not only includes classroom instruction, but an opportunity to participate in wet braking, backing, emergency lane change and collision avoidance and skid simulation.

"Unfortunately, I don't think (teen drivers) are getting enough experience through the state required curriculum," she said.

Reaching young drivers is critical, she said, noting in Holmes County all four 2007 traffic fatalities involved drivers under age 30.

"I'm hoping we'll see a reduction in the number of serious injury crashes and fatalities," she said. "For some reason, people look at traffic crashes and see it as something that just happens, but most can be prevented in some way."

"Maybe (the selected participants) will go back to school and tell their friends and parents about what they learned and encourage someone else to participate," Williard said, noting while the $350 participation fee "does seem kind of pricey, when you look at cost of increased insurance premiums and safety, the investment is worth it."

As an insurer of teen drivers, it also is a good investment for the insurance agency, said Coil, who looks at Westfield's donations means of "reinvesting in communities where you have a large presence of policy holders through safety measures."

In Holmes County, the sessions will be awarded through a drawing to be held in conjunction with a May 16 family vehicle safety day.

In Wayne County, they will be awarded, in part, to winners of an essay contest at the Wayne County Schools Career Center and participation in programs in the Dalton and Rittman schools where teen baseball and softball players serve as role models for elementary students in an attempt to make them aware of implementation of the impending booster seat requirement for children through age 8.

In an e-mail outlining the Career Center's involvement, curriculum supervisor Jeffrey Schleigh touts the program in which his own daughter participated.

Noting teen driving is the top killer of teens, Schleigh in the e-mail encourages staff to "please think carefully about supporting this activity in order to get kids to think about driving carefully as we head into what is a dangerous season for teens."
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