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'Partners for Safe Teen Drivers' is a new initiative in Stafford County high schools designed to help parents help their children become better drivers
By LEE WOOLF
THERE PROBABLY aren't many things that everyone in Stafford can agree upon. But having an effective driver's education program in the county's public school system should be one of them.
The mission is fundamental, according to Carol Lysher, the system's coordinator of health, physical education and driver's education: "Our goal is to reduce teen crashes and deaths."
It may surprise you to know that 163 teenagers died on Virginia roads in 2003--that's an average of more than three per week.
That helps to explain why the Stafford school system, for the first time last fall, began mandatory meetings for parents of students enrolled in behind-the-wheel training.
This was one of the recommendations made by Stafford County's Youth Driver Task Force in a 100-plus-page report to the Board of Supervisors in October. Lysher was a member of the task force, and she organized the required parent meetings--eight of which already have been held.
"The task force recognized that we need involvement from everybody in the community to help reduce teen deaths," Lysher said.
"And parents certainly are an important part of that. We try to give them the facts that will help them set up rules that are good for their household and encourage them to stick to those rules."
Lysher said the county has offered parents' meetings about teen driver education for several years--but the gatherings were voluntary.
"Each high school had one meeting per year, and sometimes we had as few as five parents show up," Lysher said.
For this school year, Lysher scheduled 16 of the mandatory meetings (four at each high school), and gave the program a new name: "Partners for Safe Teen Drivers."
So far, more than 1,000 people representing 754 households have attended one of the meetings. The largest group was about 230, the smallest about 60.
Parents or guardians of students taking classroom driver's education are invited to the meetings. Those with students taking behind-the-wheel classes are required to attend.
"Anyone can come and observe," said Lysher. "The meetings are open to the public. And parents can attend a meeting at any of the county's high schools. They aren't limited to their child's school."