DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) — Car crashes are the number one cause of teen deaths, and as part of National Teen Driver Safety Week, AAA is working to change that.
AAA got approval from the state in January for its “How to Drive Online” course. Since that time, it’s seen a 300% increase in enrollment to help keep teens safe on the roads.
In the midst of a pandemic, it’s a way for students to complete the required 24 hours of classroom instruction virtually. It includes real-world scenarios, and more than 3,300 Ohio teens have used the program so far.
“It’s interactive. It’s not just a point and click and let it play and walk away type of thing,” describes Mike Belcuore, Manager of the Driver Education Program for AAA.
The program includes a series of quizzes, and one state required final test at the end in which teens must score a 75% or better.
AAA says it takes about five years to become a seasoned driver, which is why age 16 to 21 is so critical on the roads.
According to OSP, 94 drivers under the age of 21 died on Ohio roads in 2019.
The challenge for driving instructors is getting rid of bad habits before they even start.
“Driving is one of the most important skills we do. But we all get into this multitasking world and life moves so quick that even the seasoned drivers have their phones out in the car and are texting and driving. They’re speeding,” states Belcuore.
He says running red lights is one of the biggest offenses and the number one reason teens fail their driving test.
AAA says learning the rules of the road is ongoing and gets better with experience.
“Take a Sunday drive. Take an hour and get them out of the house. Drive around the countryside. And drive somewhere they normally wouldn’t, not just in your own neighborhood where you’re comfortable. Get them out on roads they don’t know and drive with them,” Belcuore urges parents.
Along with the classroom instruction, AAA says teens are still required to do eight hours of in-car instruction with an instructor
National Teen Driver Safety Week runs Oct. 18-24.