By BRENNA KNOWLES
Of the Baker City Herald
I took the class because my parents made me, explained Kyle Endicott. It was easier than having to drive with them for 100 hours.
I took the class to reduce my insurance rates by a few hundred dollars, said Tanya Denne.
Endicott and Denne, both 15, are two of 27 students who took instructor Greg Franklins drivers education classes at the Union-Baker Education Service District in June.
If Endicott and Denne receive their provisional licenses they will be required to follow restrictions passed by the 1999 Oregon Legislature for their first year of driving.
The Oregon Department of Transportation implemented new teen licensing laws March 1, 2000, to help reduce traffic deaths.
For the first six months, a new driver may not have a passenger under age 20 who is not an immediate family member.
For the second six months, a fledgling driver cant haul more than three passengers under age 20 who arent immediate family members.
In addition, for the first year newly licensed drivers may not drive between midnight and 5 a.m. except when driving between home and work, home and school, or when accompanied by a licensed driver older than 25.
Troy Costales, manager of ODOTs Transportation Safety Division, said teen traffic deaths jumped 50 percent in Oregon between 1993 and 1998, with 70 teens killed in 1998. That same year, 86 drivers between ages 15 and 19 were involved in fatal crashes.
We estimate that full implementation of the new teen licensing laws will save 10 to 12 lives each year, and will prevent approximately 200 injuries, Costales said.
Franklin agrees that the new rules are needed.
The new restrictions are a really good move, he said. They are not too popular with the students, but they eliminate distractions and apply to the situations when the most wrecks happen. The data shows they are working.
Franklin, who also teaches science at La Grande High School, said he wanted to teach driving classes to have a chance at making a difference in somebodys life.
Franklin said teens get into accidents because they are more prone to take risks and have low levels of experience.
The six-month requirement is good because that is when a new driver is getting the mechanics down, he said.
Franklin said the increase in the amount of supervised driving hours has filled up drivers education classes.
But classes like this wont do it alone, he said. Parents need to get involved in the learning process and encourage compliance with the new restrictions.
After attending classes at Western Oregon University later this summer, Franklin will be able to train driving instructors in Eastern Oregon. He said the statewide curriculum will be standardized by 2004.
The new laws also transfer responsibility for statewide driver education from the Department of Education to the Transportation Safety Division. Franklin said this will provide more money to train educators, and take some financial stress off of school districts.
Anyone under the age of 18 applying for a Class C Provisional Drivers License will be required to pass the Knowledge Test, have a class C Instruction Permit for at least six months and complete up to 100 hours of supervised driving time (or 50 hours of supervised driving if they complete a driver training course), pass the Safe Driving Practices Test, schedule and pass a behind-the-wheel Drive Test and then follow restrictions for one year after receiving a provisional license.
Endicott said the new restrictions are fair because some new drivers like to hot rod instead of focus.
However, he does not agree with the restriction to be implemented in September requiring licensed drivers under age 18 to be enrolled in school.
Some people drop out of school and should be able to drive to work, Endicott said.
Denne said the new teen licensing laws make sense and will be helpful but she does not like them.
She said that besides the break in insurance costs, she is taking the class to cut the amount of hours necessary for parent-supervised driving time.
Lana Ho, 15, said she thinks most young drivers will ignore the new restrictions and just pay the fines if they are caught driving at restricted times.
Denne and Ho practiced their skills with driving instructor Jim Huff starting at 6 a.m. on a recent Tuesday. Denne said that was early, but a good time to practice because there was little traffic.
Denne and Ho agreed they were becoming more comfortable with their driving after only four hours of behind-the-wheel critiquing by Huff.
He has trained more 200 drivers in Baker County. He said his goal in teaching drivers education is to give the students the skills they need to pass the state driving test the first time.
Its my job to help take the small errors out and help students be exposed to driving in different environments, Huff said. I can tell who has had a lot of driving experience, and it all depends on if their parents have had the time to work with them.
Huff said young drivers with ample experience have fewer accidents.
Janice Mahugh is a behind-the-wheel driving test administrator for the Department of Motor Vehicles in Baker City. She said she would definitely recommend that new drivers take drivers education classes for three reasons: one-on-one time with a driving instructor; in-class instruction; and to reduce insurance rates.
The next drivers education classes are set for July 23-27 at the Union-Baker Education Service District, 2100 Main St., from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. each day.
The classes are free, but a $10 fee is charged for students who do not report for the behind-the- wheel instruction.
Interested students age 15 or older who have a valid Oregon learners permit or drivers license can stop by the ESD for a registration packet. More information about the July class is available by calling the ESD office at 523-5801.
For more information about the new licensing requirements or to request a teen driver packet call DMV Customer Assistance at 503/945-5000.