With his experiences as a drivers' education instructor and teaching his own children to drive, Donnell Jones knows how difficult, and sometimes scary, it can be teaching teens to drive safely.
Donald Jones, who is waiting for a state license so he can open Jones Driving School, is also a UGA Pride
instructor. The Pride program teaches teens and their parents how to drive.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
Through a grant from the Georgia Office of Highway Safety, Jones will offer a free class to teens to teach them the rules of the road and beginning safety techniques, while parents will be taught separately how to teach their new drivers during the state required 20-40 hours of supervised practice time.
Sign ups for those classes, organized through the University of Georgia's Cooperative Extension Service, will be held at this week's public school open houses in Harlem.
Jones, a instructor for Parents Reducing Incidents of Driver Error, or PRIDE, taught at a drivers education school for more than three years before deciding to open his own school - Jones Driver Education in Martinez, which is still awaiting state licensing.
He said that comments from parents of his students and in the community confirm that many are too afraid, nervous or impatient to ride with their children.
"Thereby, what do you have? You have a bad combination," he said. "You have parents, one, that don't have time and parents; two, that don't have the patience, and there is no accountability for how they get their training or anything of that nature."
Drivers education courses have not been offered in Columbia County schools for more than 20 years, according to the Columbia County Board of Education.
As a PRIDE instructor, Jones will have information about the free class and will be accepting sign-ups at both the open houses Friday at Harlem High School from 7 to 9 p.m. and Harlem Middle School from 6 to 8 p.m.
"It gives both the students and the parents an opportunity to go through some valuable training," Harlem Public Safety Chief Jerry Baldwin said about the class.
Baldwin, who is also a PRIDE instructor assisting with classes, said he would like to see the number of teen deaths in the county decrease and believes the PRIDE program can help do that.
Seven teens died in vehicle crashes in 2003, and 16-year-old Sarah Christen Renfro died in January.
"Our teens are not getting enough experience driving," Baldwin said. "It's sad because some of it could have been avoided if they had a little more training I think."
Frankie Jones, no relation to Donnell Jones, said vehicle accidents are the No. 1 cause of teen deaths in Georgia. About 200 Georgia teens and 6,000 nationwide die each year in car wrecks.
"They are inexperienced and exhibit high risk driving behaviors," said Ms. Jones, program manager for PRIDE. "They are more distracted and more likely to be unbelted. (Teen drivers) are at a vulnerable stage, their coordination is not as developed and they are more likely to have teen passengers in the car with them."
Mr. Jones said that during the course, teens rate their parents driving ability and compare them to the ratings the parents give their own driving.
"We are hoping not only will teens be safer drivers, but this will also help parents become safer drivers," he said.
Mr. Jones will be signing up interested parents and their teens for the first PRIDE course, which will be scheduled based on the most convenient time for those signed up. The class is open to anyone interested.
For more information on the PRIDE course, contact Mr. Jones at 364-6249 or visit jonesdriversed.com.
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