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September 2019
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Drivers education, money that would be well spent

    Last week the Progress ran an article, where teens discussed the problem posed by the lack of drivers education in public schools.
    The teens generally said that with the schools not offering drivers education, it leaves a blind spot in learning to operate an automobile.
    To get a license at 16 years old, you need to complete a certified training class. You can wait a year and get the license at 17 without the class.
    After last week’s article one reader called pointing out that driving is a privilege, not a right, and the teens should deal with it. We disagree strongly.
    In debate terms, driving is a privilege, but in practical terms driving is a necessity – and, all the more so if you live in a rural or suburban setting.   
    There are two primary reasons we believe that at the local and state level funds need to be found to teach driving to every teen that can be lured into the classroom.
    First, for the benefit of the teen. To function in this rural setting, you must drive or have someone who has ample spare time to haul you around. Forcing teens to wait a full year to get that license may force them to wait a year until they land part-time work. For some Pickens families, another wage earner can be the difference between relative comfort and just scraping by. And the earlier some teens can drive, the sooner they can start making money for college.
    The lack of transportation surely affects anyone’s chance of landing a job as much as illiteracy or missing a high school diploma. If you can’t get there, no one is going to hire you and you would wait a long time in Pickens County for a bus to come by.
    Getting a vehicle also poses a big hurdle, but industrious teens often find ways to share a parent’s car or can work a deal for something  cheap that will get them to work and back.
    While there are likely readers fuming that they once walked as far as needed to get to work, it’s really not feasible for kids who live in the outlying areas of the county. Even if a kid were a marathon runner, you can’t expect him to get out of school at 3 p.m. on Dragon Drive and run to the Piggly Wiggly, Ingles or Kroger with almost no sidewalks and a lot of traffic, and then walk home to Marble Hill or Ludville, more than 10 miles away in the dark, after they finish their shift.
    The second, and much more significant reason, we believe drivers education should be brought back is for all of us: Consider this when you are cruising down the road: Where did that young person in the next car, learn to drive?
    There are private classes, but parents have to be willing to pay for them. Teens can wait until they are 17, but there is no reason to think they will absorb more road knowledge in that year. And parents could teach them, but just because you are a parent doesn’t mean you are a safe driver.
    The most dangerous thing we do is get on the roads. More so than Islamist terrorists, unsecured borders, climate change or Ebola viruses, car wrecks claim healthy lives in America. Except for the elderly, car crashes rank number one as the leading cause of death in most age groups.
    Anything we can do to lessen this danger on the highways, even if means shifting funds from one of the War on Somethings, would be money well spent.
    We fund and hope our schools develop in students a wide array of skills, from reading to cooking, so the idea that we ask them to teach driving makes a lot of sense.
    Money spent at either the state or local level to promote better drivers is money well spent for the teens and for all of us who venture on to the roads.