October 28, 2005
You've heard of driving classes for teenagers, but what about for their parents? The Albemarle County school board has voted unanimously to make parents take a Drivers Ed course along with their kids.
"Parents need to have their parents be aware that driving a car is like having a loaded weapon," said Albemarle parent Doreen Schuit.
Parents of young teens are glad come January when Albemarle County schools will now require parents to take a two hour driving seminar before their kids can register for a driving course.
"I think it's great. I think the parents need to be more active with the kids and see what's going on," said Kathy Nolan Albemarle County parent. She said this includes learning how their kids are being taught to drive.
Parents will learn about driving statistics, insurance costs and receive tips on how to teach their child how to drive.
"We need to get across the message that kids need lots of practice before they are turned loose," said Richard Wharam, Albemarle county driver education instructor.
There have been no teen driving fatalities in Albemarle County but on average about 18 percent of Albemarle high school students have been in crashes their first year behind the wheel.
"Driver education has a positive effect for six months, and then they get complacent, and they get in trouble," said Wharam.
Public schools in northern Virginia require a similar course for parents. Since they started their class in 2004, the amount of accidents and deaths of young drivers have gone way down.
"A year ago in northern Virginia, teen drivers were dying at the rate of 1 every other day. We lost 15 teenagers in 30 days in northern Virginia last year. In the last year, [since they started the mandatory course] they have not had one teen fatality up there," said Wharam.
The hope is that here in Albemarle County, parents learning with their kids can also make a fatal difference.