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Archive for Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Road rules: First-time drivers get behind the wheel

Teens learn street smarts in summer course

June 27, 2007

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Cars used by students in the driver's education program carry specific signs to identify young learners to other drivers on the road.

Cars used by students in the driver's education program carry specific signs to identify young learners to other drivers on the road.

Jacqueline Wells, a student from Southwest Junior High School, maneuvers the wheel of her car as driver's education teacher Ken Hile gives instruction at Free State High School's parking lot. Wells is one of 350 people taking the school district.'s summer class.

Jacqueline Wells, a student from Southwest Junior High School, maneuvers the wheel of her car as driver's education teacher Ken Hile gives instruction at Free State High School's parking lot. Wells is one of 350 people taking the school district.'s summer class.

Jacqueline Wells, a student from Southwest Junior High School steers the wheel of her driver's education car in the parking lot of Free State High School where instructors like Ken Hile help the kids learn the ropes of driving.

Jacqueline Wells, a student from Southwest Junior High School steers the wheel of her driver's education car in the parking lot of Free State High School where instructors like Ken Hile help the kids learn the ropes of driving.

Drivers ed a summertime tradition for local teens

'Tis the season for short sleeves, swimming pools, and new drivers hitting the streets as drivers ed is sort of a summertime rite of passage for teenagers across the country. Enlarge video

When young drivers slide behind the wheel for the first time and hit Lawrence roads during the summer, just about anything can turn up in the car.

"We just got a little too close to the curb, and the tree branches came in through the window," Amber Steimle said Tuesday, after completing her fourth week of driver's education. "Our instructor reached out and grabbed a handful of trees."

Such is life during the summer 2007 edition of driver's education.

Steimle, who will be a sophomore this fall at Free State High School, is one of 350 drivers-in-training who enrolled in a driver's education course offered by the Lawrence school district.

Students spend half of their time during the four-week course in a Free State High School classroom, preparing for the written portion of a test they must pass to receive their license. The other half of the time, they're behind the wheel - some for their first time.

"A lot of kids think driving with the seat as far back as you can go, tilted back with one hand at the top of the steering wheel, is how you're supposed to drive," said head instructor Brenda Soldani, who's taught driving since 1991. "They don't learn it from their parents. They learn it from their friends and TV shows.

"In here, you do it the way we want you to do it - both hands on the wheel, sitting up - and we go from there."

Students must log 50 hours of driving practice before they can secure a restricted license, but they'll spend only about four or five hours behind the wheel during the entire driver's education session.

Still, that's enough time for them to figure out that the streets hold some hazards.

Several students said they are afraid of driving in roundabouts. Others said highway driving causes them the most stress.

"Merging onto the highway, getting up to a high speed really fast," Steimle said.

"I think the safety of my passengers, I worry about that a lot," said Steimle's older sister, Bug Steimle, who will be a senior this fall. "The safety of me, I'm OK with, because I can deal with that, but the people that are driving with me and trust me, it's a little worrisome."

But Patrick Kelly, who oversees the driver's education program for the school district, worries about all young drivers.

"For me, it's watching the teen drivers on the road," he said. "You want to make sure that they're well-prepared. I don't think they're always watching what's going on. Cell phone drivers scare me to death, you know. So I think those are all the things we have to prepare for."

And Kelly can spot the ingredients for disaster.

"I saw a kid the other day with balloons in the car and I thought, 'Oh boy, that's going to be a problem.'"

Comments

KS 7 years, 6 months ago

Be sure to teach them that when entering an interstate highway on a ramp, the car entering has the responsibilty to "YEILD" (regardless if there is a yeild sign or not and that means slow down or stop if necessary) and not expect those already on the interstate to move over or stop. Read the darn driver's manual. It is as plain as the print on the page.

compmd 7 years, 6 months ago

ottr, KS is absolutlely correct (except for the I before E except after C part). Everyone merging onto a highway is required to yield to highway traffic. If it causes problems as you suggest, then the problem is caused by a driver that does not know or does not care about the rules of the road. If there is space, then sure, it is courteous of the drivers on the highway to move over, but they don't have to. In cities where there are people (unlike most of Kansas) you yield, or you plow into a car or semi and die.

Crossfire 7 years, 6 months ago

Ks, Are you krazy. You need to learn to drive in the real world. When you are on an interstate highway you know that cars are going to be getting on at entrance ramps. Give those drivers an access. Move over. Plan ahead. Think. Drive.

HateTheYankees 7 years, 6 months ago

As long as they teach them that the left lane on highways is for passing, not leisurely driving, I don't care what else is included. When will people finally get this rule? Does this constantly afflict anyone else?

guesswho 7 years, 6 months ago

Don't stop at YIELD signs!!!! That is so - dangerous thing - there is room to speed up or slow down but stopping does not give one ample opportunity to get up to highway speed.

While I'm ranting - I hate when drivers stop at the yield signs on 23rd and Iowa (going west on 23rd then north on Iowa). There is ample space in the lane to go until there is room to get over.

compmd 7 years, 6 months ago

guesswho, traffic can be heavy enough that stopping at a yield sign is the only reasonable course of action to take. In some big cities, there are even small traffic lights on onramps to force merging traffic to stop so that the flow of merging traffic is not dangerous. "Ample opportunity to get up to highway speed" is dependent on traffic. In 99% of Kansas, a Yugo has sufficient power and road to "get up to highway speed."

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