BRADENTON -- Across the United States, driver's education classes have been pulled out and taken away from high schools.
Statistics clearly show a need for driver's ed in Florida schools and nationwide.
Motor-vehicle crashes are the No. 1 cause of death among teens in the United States.
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The fatality rate for drivers age 16 to 19 is four times that of drivers age 25 to 69 years.
In their first year on the road, teens are almost 10 times more likely to be in a crash.
56 percent of teens rely on their parents to learn how to drive.
Crash risk for teens increases incrementally with each mile per hour over the speed limit.
More than 40 percent of teen auto deaths occur between the hours of 9 p.m. and 6 a.m.
More than 74,000 young people die or are injured each year by not wearing seatbelts.
Less than 50 percent of new teenage drivers receive any formal driver training prior to receiving their license.
Nationwide, 43 percent of first-year drivers and 37 percent of second-year drivers are
involved in car crashes.
65 percent of teen passenger deaths occur when another teenager is driving.
In the last decade, more than 68,000 teens have died in car crashes.
Additionally, there are eight leading causes of teen crashes: impaired driving, inexperience, driving recklessly, drowsy driving, not wearing a seat belt, driving while distracted, nighttime driving and driving with teen passengers.
During the 2015-2016 school year, the driver's education program was reinstated in Southeast, Lakewood Ranch and Bayshore high schools. Now, every high school in Manatee County has a driver's ed program.
The driver's ed program, funded by the Slosberg grant, collects $5 from every traffic ticket.
The Dori Slosberg Foundation, established in 2004, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to traffic safety. It was named in memory of the daughter of former state Rep. Irving Slosberg of Boca Raton.
His daughter, Dori Slosberg, was not wearing a seatbelt when a car crash ended her life and the lives of four others.
Preparing for the road
The goal of the program is to prepare every student to pass the road test before earning a driver's license.
Students are prepared by receiving instruction pertaining to driving and are given the opportunity to test for the signs and road rules portion of the learner's permit requirements.
Once a student passes the test, a waiver is given to take to the Department of Motor Vehicles to get a permit.
In its first year back at Southeast High School, driver's education has received positive feedback from adults and students who believe it's an important program for young adults.
"I think the short visual clips with the questions are helpful to students or teens. It gives a visual example of how the driving ways work and what should be done" said senior Juanita Valerio. "Texting, grooming, and eating while driving are forms of distracting driving and it is best that we teens prevent ourselves from doing such things so that we can be safe."
Behind the wheel driving
The rest of the class is dedicated to behind-the-wheel driving, which allows the students to experience real-life driving.
"I think it is an effective tool and it works. It gives you a third-person view of a situation that you could come across when driving and it lets you know the best choice to make," said senior Maria Sanchez, about the behind-the-wheel portion of the program. "The most important thing to do when driving is to stay calm and keep a cool head."
Junior Logan Humes said instructor Randy Funderburke offered her recommendations and helpful advice when it came to driving with her disability.
"I learned how to correctly park, which was very different than the way I had been observing and thought it was done," Humes said. "We learned how to park uphill, even though Florida is pretty flat, just in case we happen to be out of state."
With driver's education once again in place at all Manatee County high schools, teens will be better prepared to be out on the road driving. They'll have the proper education and information they need, which includes knowing the road rules and signs as well as being equipped with useful strategies and tools to use when driving. Driver's ed ensures we have smarter and safer teen drivers.