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Weatherly students learn how being 16 makes a big difference in their lives

Published February 23. 2012 05:01PM

Students turning 16 this month at Weatherly High School are part of an innovative new program geared for them to become better drivers when they get their driver's license.

Beginning today, students will have age appropriate specific information that will help tune them into the law as it applies to them.

Carol A. Alonge, project coordinator of the Pennsylvania Traffic Safety Network (PATSN) said that Weatherly police officer George Keefer, will be at the high school at 1:30 p.m. today, and once a month thereafter, to discuss teens' behind the wheel safety and to go over specifics of the law that pertains to them.

"We are only bringing in the students that turn 16 that month," said Alonge. "Each student will be at the same awareness level. They will learn about the Buckle Up campaign and the new laws that pertain to teen drivers."

The program, "16 Minutes," is broken down into four sessions and provides Officer Keefer with specific curriculum that takes approximately 16 minutes to share with the students.

The first segment congratulates the students on the "big event," of being legally able to drive and gives statistics to the students on what other driver education students said about driving.

Here's what 154 driver education students had to say:

• 38 percent thought driving was either hard, scary or nerve-racking

• 6 percent thought driving was easy

• 15 percent said driving was an exciting rush

• 11 percent felt driving gave them control of their lives

• 9 percent were afraid of bad drivers and hoped for enforcement

• 9 percent needed more time behind the wheel

• 12 percent didn't realize a car was so powerful.

During the session, students will discuss, seat belts - their best defense in a crash; graduated licensing program - learning to drive at a safe, measured pace; defensive driving - learning that while the student might be a good driver, not everyone else is; maintaining control - you are responsible for your life (and the lives of your passengers), whenever you get behind the wheel - take it seriously; and that passengers need to exercise good judgment when deciding with whom they want to ride.

During the second segment, students learn about behavior and consequences. Students will learn that when they reach 16 the legal driving age the chance of being killed in a car crash increases by more than 500 percent. Seat belts and airbags, could reduce their chance of death by up to 60 percent.

They also learn that some behaviors can lead to a crash:

• Aggressive driving

• Speeding

• Red-light running

• Weaving, racing

• Distracted driving

• Cell phone use

• Turning to talk to friends

• Eating

• Playing with the radio

• Impaired driving

• Alcohol

• Drugs

• Prescription medications

• Lack of sleep

In the third session, students learn about enforcement and penalty - the Click It or Ticket (Pennsylvania's seat belt law and provisions for those under 18).

Click It or Ticket means drivers can be stopped and cited for a primary offense (i.e. speeding, running a stop sign) and drivers who are found to be unbelted, will receive a second ticket for not buckling up. There will be no warnings and the law is enforced with no exceptions.

Drivers who are stopped and cited for a primary offense and any passengers (ages 18 and under) who aren't buckled up, will receive citations for them as well.

Each seat belt citation adds an extra $60 or so to the fine.

The final 16 minute teaches that driving is a privilege, not a right.

"We want to believe that everyone on the road is safe and responsible, but you know that's not the case," said Alonge. "Protect yourself and wear a seat belt. Your life and the lives of your passengers depend on it."

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