Drive for Safety: Working to reduce the statistics

4:51 PM, Jul 19, 2011   |    comments
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HAMPDEN, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Many teenagers dream of the day they finally get their driver's license. And, for their parents, it's a day they've been dreading for years.

But it's not an easy road, getting your driver's license. Teens must learn a lot about not only how to drive but the dangers they can encounter -- dangers like impaired driving. 

"The state does make a priority out of this segment of driver education because of it's obvious importance," said Driver's Education Instructor Joel Small. "We go over quite a bit of the full gamet of drinking while driving, what complied consent is when they get their license and their permit and the obvious dangers involved while drinking and driving."

The state requires driver's ed books to have one section on peer pressure and another on impaired driving. It also requires instructors to teach the subject for three hours.

Secretary of State Charlie Summers would like students to focus more on the dangers of driving while under the influence.

According to Summers, he's already taken some steps toward that goal. In May, he discussed impaired driving with students at Narraguagus High School. From that conversation, a change was made on the state driver's exam.

The thirty-question test used to have only three questions focusing on the subject, now it has eight.

Summers said it's another way the state can be tough on impaired driving.

"We have one of the highest arrest rates, because our law enforcement officials across the state are very well-trained in recognizing some who is impaired and we prosecute," said Summers.

Maine is one of several states which have seen a decrease in alcohol-impaired driving fatalities under the age of 21. Between 1999 and 2009, fatalities decreased by 21.1% percent. In 2009, there were six fatalities. That same year, 67 people under the age of 18 were arrested for driving under the influence.

In class, Joel tries to bring those statistics and the seriousness of those decisions to life. He walks his students through the lesson, focusing on implied consent, blood alcohol levels and the consequences teens face when caught driving impaired.

"All we can do is try to express and educate them on how serious it is," said Small. "Statistics aren't very exciting, but they are something we have to go over and they really tell us that it's still a huge problem. We need to go over it and do what we can to get it through to the kids."






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