Sunday, November 16, 2003

State seeks $1 million for teen driver training



The Associated Press

COLUMBUS - Ohio officials are seeking $1 million in federal funding to make sure driving instructors get proper training. They also want to hike restrictions on teenage drivers.

The proposed changes are the latest in a series of teenage driving reforms, put into motion in 1997 when the state created restrictions for drivers younger than 18.

"We feel like the student curriculum is pretty solid. The piece we need to work on is having the instructors be able to deliver it well," said Karen Kadar, driver-training manager for the Ohio Department of Public Safety.

A person can become an instructor if he has held a driver's license for at least five years and participated in 40 hours of state-certified training.

"The feedback that we are getting from some of the schools and parents is that they feel the instructors need to have more training," Kadar said.

The state also revoked the license of a Cleveland-area school accused of selling certificates of completion, needed to take the state exam, for $65 without requiring the mandatory coursework.

In January, the state closed a school in Ashland County after one instructor was indicted for "improper sexual conversations" and "illegal physical contact" with a 16-year-old female driving-school student, according to a state investigation.

The state now checks the driving records and criminal backgrounds of would-be driving instructors, Kadar said. Instructors are disqualified if they have had more than three moving violations in the past three years.

"These kids aren't getting any doggone training," said Kevin Jordan, a retired State Highway Patrol trooper who runs a driving school.

State officials want $1 million to create a two-year pilot program that would experiment with Internet-based learning and other methods to improve instructor training.

Sen. Mike DeWine, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, was reviewing the funding request, his office said. It would be a year before it would likely be acted on and even longer before the money would be available, if it passes muster with Congress.

Kadar said the state also wants a curfew for teenagers driving at night and a limit in the number of passengers allowed in cars driven by teenagers.




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