CHP gears up for teen driving safety class

By From page A2 | March 24, 2011

With the expected increase in teenage drivers during the spring and summer months, the Placerville office of the California Highway Patrol is yet again offering its Smart Start driving class.

Smart Start, designed for teen drivers and their parents, is a free, three-hour course aimed at reducing the number of collisions and injuries involving fledgling drivers.

“It’s unfortunate, but the leading cause of death for 15- to 25-year-olds is car accidents,” said CHP officer Dan Stark. “In Smart Start, we talk about DUIs, we talk about distracted driving.”

Stark said the class pulls no punches because, when it comes to driver safety, the CHP can’t afford to.

“We’re honest with them,” he said. “We show them real-life pictures and videos of actual accidents.”

Issues covered in the Smart Start class include collision avoidance techniques, collision causing elements and driver responsibility.

Previous classes have also featured testimonials from parents whose children were killed in car accidents.

To date, Smart Start has proved an invaluable tool, said Stark. In fact, some graduates opt to retake the class.

“We’ve had some teenagers who wanted to go through the course more than once,” said Stark. “This time, they bring their friends with them.”

The impact of the class is not lost on the parents, either.

“Some parents say the class has changed their driving habits,” said Stark.

The class also offers students an opportunity to meet local CHP officers in a non-stressful atmosphere.

“They can talk to us without being on the side of the road or at the site of an accident,” said Stark. “It gives them a chance to see us not just as police officers. We were teenagers once.”

The first Smart Start class is set to be held April 7, but there are currently no openings available. The next class is scheduled for May 5.

Classes are expected to be held once a month, but Stark said that number could increase, depending on the interest of the community.

For more information on the Smart Start class, call the Placerville area CHP office at 530-622-1110.

E-mail Jim Ratajczak at [email protected] or call 530-344-5069.

Jim Ratajczak

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