Nearly all the teenagers standing before the judge in Columbia County Juvenile Traffic Court on Sept. 30 got an extra condition added to their sentences - enrollment in the Columbia County Sheriff's Office STOPPED program.
"Everybody who gets sen-tenced today will get volun-teered for the program," Juvenile Court Judge Doug Flanagan said. The only peo-ple not enrolled as part of their sentences were those facing minor traffic offenses such as illegal U-turn.
The free Sheriffs Telling Our Parents and Promoting Educated Drivers program was adopted and implemented by Sheriff Clay Whittle more than a month ago. The program, an attempt to assist parents in monitoring young motorists and helping raise awareness for drivers younger than 21, offers parents notification if their child is pulled over by deputies for any reason.
"A lot of kids don't tell their parents they got a ticket until a subpoena comes," Kari Poss, Juvenile Court probation officer and traffic coordinator, said. "It's another way of letting them know."
With the exception of those who are sentenced to enroll, the program is voluntary. If the vehicle is pulled over and anyone younger than 21 is driving, a written form - including the time, date and reason for the stop, driver's name and number of passengers and whether a traffic citation was issued - is mailed to the parents.
"It sounds like a good idea," Rob Blandenburg said after his son was sentenced on a speeding violation and he enrolled the family vehicles in the STOPPED program. "I like being able to keep an eye on him.''
Sheriff's Capt. Steve Morris said 40 families have enrolled vehicles into the program, not counting the 13 juveniles and 25 vehicles enrolled after the sentencing hearing. Now, sheriff's office deputies will be on hand at the monthly traffic court to sign up new members.
The program is still in its infancy, but Morris said it is growing.
"We completely support Judge Flanagan's attempt to steer young adults in the right direction," Morris said, relaying Whittle's comments on Judge Flanagan's new mandatory enrollment.
Flanagan said he was first approached by the sheriff's office Justice Center clerk Ivey Rau about the program. After talking to Whittle, Flanagan decided to use it in his own courtroom.
"I think the program is going to make a difference," Flanagan said. "I think the parents need to know and also a little more oversight makes a difference."
Poss said parents at the first session of traffic court where STOPPED was used were very open to the program.
In the future, Poss said she is going to attach the program's brochure and enrollment form to traffic court subpoenas.
For information on the pro-gram or to register, call the Community Services Unit at 541-3985.
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