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Driving school readies youth for the road
Works with sheriffs office, parks and rec
driver ed deputy .
Jared Smith watches as Deputy Matt Runion explains the dangers facing new drivers. - photo by Jim Dean
To reinforce some of the main points in his class, one instructor invites a sheriff’s deputy to talk about the importance of safety for teenage drivers.

Enrolling in the 30-hour class is a state-mandated requirement for 15- and 16-year-old teens.

Some choose to take the course through the Forsyth County school system, where it is scheduled during the regular school year. Others may take it through a private driving school in the community.

One such private driving school, Georgia Driving Coach, works with Forsyth County Parks and Recreation and the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office.

Georgia Driving Coach offers a two-weekend, 30-hour class for teens. It satisfies the driver’s education portion of requirements for getting a Class D driver’s license, or a provisional license.

Last month, the business invited Forsyth County Sheriff’s Deputy Matt Runion to speak to class participants.

Among the topics discussed were the basics of driving safety, as well as what Runion described as “the potential consequences for the decisions [teen drivers] make today.”

According to Sheriff’s Capt. Frank Huggins, there were two teen fatalities on local roads in 2008. One occurred Jan. 2 and the other Oct. 1. No teenage driving deaths have been recorded so far this year in the county.

Runion said many teens on track to getting their provisional license are not aware of the restrictions they face during their first two years of driving.

When young people get their license, they may not carry any non-family passengers for the first six months. There is also a curfew, with driving prohibited between midnight and 6 a.m.

Once drivers turn 18, they are eligible to get their Class C driver’s license, which removes curfew and passenger restrictions.

A teen driver may not be eligible, however, if he or she gets too many traffic citations.

Runion said these restrictions are in place to “help introduce them into driving slowly, rather than just giving them everything all at once.”

“That way,” he said, “they’re not distracted by other things going on in their car. They can concentrate on learning how to drive.”

Karr said he was pleased with the lessons Runion shared April 24, and he plans to invite him to speak to upcoming summer sessions.

“That was the first time I had him out there, and I think he did a phenomenal job,” Karr said. “It was awesome.”

Another option for young drivers is to fulfill the 30-hour driver’s education requirement through the school system, which partners with the Lanier Extended Area Driver Education Resource.

The nonprofit organization has driving simulators set up in all Forsyth County high schools and also offers classroom instruction.

Jennifer Caracciolo, school spokeswoman, said the district is one of the few in Georgia to offer a driver’s education course.

Students who are 16 or younger and looking to obtain their Class D license must also meet a six-hour behind-the-wheel requirement or 40 hours of parent-led driver training.

Private driving schools like Georgia Driving Coach offer the six-hour course. Seventeen-year-olds are not required to take a driver’s education course.

E-mail Frank Reddy at