Opinion & Editorial

Lane County initiative focusing on helping young, rural drivers

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Do we need Driver Education?
The simple answer is yes. But, why?
Traffic crashes are the leading cause of death for people aged 0 to 20 – in the nation, in the State of Oregon and in Lane County.
In Lane County, between 2007 and 2014, 54% of motor vehicle fatalities occurred in rural areas. There were more motor vehicle crashes in the metro areas, but due to factors such as speed, impairment and distraction, crashes are more severe in rural areas and result in more fatalities.
In 2016, throughout the state, 18.92% of fatal and injury crashes involved a driver aged 15 to 20.
In addition, of all crashes caused by teens, 91% of those teens had not taken a Driver Education course.
Far too many families, friends and community members have experienced the painful costs associated with motor vehicle crashes. We need to make a change and we need to make it now. Driver Education teaches novice drivers not only how to drive and the rules of the road, but how to make good decisions to avoid becoming involved in a crash. Driver Education was identified in Lane County’s Transportation Action Plan as a key ingredient in lowering the incidence rate of fatal motor vehicle crashes.
In June 2018, Lane Education Service District received a grant from the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT), called the Lane County Driver Education Initiative (Teens Driving Safely). In collaboration with several agencies including Lane County, the City of Eugene, Lane Council of Governments and ODOT, the goal of the initiative is to improve road safety in Lane County.
To reach that goal, Teens Driving Safely is focusing on bringing Driver Education courses to all public high schools in Lane County through partnerships between private driving schools and school districts. Teens Driving Safely consists of four unique, yet interdependent projects: 1) increase the number of instructor training sites from zero to one, 2) increase the number of certified instructors in Lane County, 3) increase the number of driver education classes available to teens and 4) decrease the cost burden to families for their teen’s education.
Project 1 is complete and Project 2 is underway. Lane ESD hosts a driver education instructor training course a couple of times a year. The next course begins Dec. 21, 2019 and registration is now open. This course is utilizing a new hybrid design in which new instructors meet in person and learn online over the course of nine weekends. To find out more information and to register visit: http://triwou.org/projects/tse.
The private providers in Lane County who would ultimately employ the new instructors are Lane County Driving School (Springfield), Oregon Driver Training Institute (Eugene), Oregon Driver Education Center (Eugene), and Rob’s Driver Ed LLC (Florence). Once these private providers have enough instructors, they will be able to expand their reach to smaller communities outside of the Eugene/Springfield area (Project 3).
As for Project 4, the teen course is not without cost to families. ODOT provides some of the funds to cover the cost, but families will be asked to pay anywhere from $225 to $350, on average. Teens Driving Safely has established a scholarship fund through Lane Education Foundation and is looking for individual and corporate donors. This fund will benefit all of Lane County, but that doesn’t stop community residents from creating their own account to benefit families in this area.
By becoming a driver education instructor, donating to a scholarship fund and modeling good driving behavior, we can all help improve the safety of our roads. Let’s all do our part to help our youth.

Sherrie Bandy is the Teens Driving Safely coordinator.



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