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Pandemic backlog in teen driving education leads to new concerns ahead of ‘100 Deadliest Days'

Combined with excitement over pandemic restrictions easing, there is a fear among some in the driving education industry that this summer could prove more dangerous.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Memorial Day Weekend marks the end of school and the start of the summer season for many.  

It also marks a grave period known as the 100 Deadliest Days for teen drivers, which stretches from Memorial Day to Labor Day, when kids are out of school with more freedom on their own.  

Combined with excitement over pandemic restrictions easing, there is a fear among some in the driving education industry that this summer could prove more dangerous.  

10TV talked with Jennifer Burkhart, a driving instructor for AAA, about how the pandemic impacted drivers’ education.  

She explained that the pandemic put a halt to classes for a while and once classes began again, restrictions and precautions slowed down the instruction process.  

“The backlog, really,” Burkhard said. “We’ve seen an impact on students being able to get licensed. You know, there’s students with permits about to expire so they’re either having to extend their permits or they’re really trying to get in.” 

Molly Metcalf, a sophomore at London City Schools, told 10TV that she is in that boat.  

After receiving her permit back in October and calling a handful of driving schools, many told her they were backed up until July.  

“I wouldn’t have been able to do this and get my license before school but luckily here, I didn’t have to wait that long,” Metcalf said.  

Metcalf turned to AAA, which is opening a brand-new driver education course, helping to alleviate that backlog.  

In order to get a license in Ohio, students are only required to take eight hours of driving, Burkhart explained.  

To get their permit, however, students are required to drive 50 hours with their parents, with 10 of those hours at night.  

That chunk of time puts a lot of the driving education responsibility on the parents, Burkhart said, adding that creating a teen-parent driving agreement to set rules and expectations can be a good place to start.  

“Another thing parents can do is model good driving behavior when they’re behind the wheel,” Burkhart said. “If a child is in the car with [you,] make sure you’re not texting and driving, make sure you’re not blaring your music, make sure you’re not being distracted by the other passengers, make sure that you’re checking your blind spots. All of those good habits that we want to see in the teen drivers, the parents need to model themselves.” 

Common mistakes made among new drivers include failure to yield, Burkhart said.  

“Students sometimes think that other people are looking out for them and maybe they don’t look out so much for themselves,” she said.  

Speed control is another issue, Burkhart said, adding that sometimes new drivers don’t like to look down at the speedometer and can struggle to gauge their speed.  

“And then poor visual scanning,” she said. “It’s really just about that proper planning and taking into account what other drivers are doing on the road.” 

To learn more about AAA Driver Education and to register for classes and behind-the-wheel training, click here.