OPINION: Educate our drivers


When taking lessons with Ms. Pat, as well as other Taggart’s instructors, you will drive a car with a large “Student Driver” sign on top to warn surrounding cars on the road.

I dreaded the moment when I would have to sit in a classroom for 30 hours, taking Driver’s Education during my break. My entire week off—spent at Decatur High School—sitting at a desk. Pure joy, right?   In spite of my lethargy, I climbed the staircase through what seemed like a jar of molasses. When I finally reached the classroom, it was not as I had imagined.   A kind-eyed lady was waiting peacefully at a student desk for the remainder of her students to arrive. She seemed so happy to be sitting in that plastic chair, perky and wide-eyed at nine o’clock on a Monday morning.   Yet, here I was, waltzing in at the last minute, already praying that the 3:30 release arrive soon. In spite of my initial pessimistic attitude, after spending two hours with my teacher, I realized that it wasn’t as bad after all. Of course, it wasn’t my top choice for spending my week, but it’s a requirement for teenage Georgians in order to be licensed at age 16.   My Taggart’s instructor, Pat Dutter, was stoked. While she expressed her incredible motivation for educating students about driving, I suddenly saw the importance of driving in a new light.   “I’m in the business of freedom and independence,” Dutter said. “I get pretty excited about [my job] because I am helping to give people a skill that will last all the days of their life.”   After thinking about her creative job title, I couldn’t agree more. My drive to get behind the wheel by myself is strong, and was strengthened after my sister got her license a few months ago. The ability to go places without my parents driving me was liberating, and to imagine that a wallet-sized piece of plastic gives me the privilege to do so is amazing.   So you may be asking yourself, why is Driver’s Ed so important?   Although the feeling of accelerating down I-285 is exhilarating, you should make sure your license to drive doesn’t turn into a “license to kill.” Driver’s Ed instructors are trained to do just that—discipline the influx of new teen drivers.   According to the British Medical Journal, “The principal goal of many, if not most, driver education and training programs is to produce “safer” drivers.”   “You need to know the laws,” Dutter said. “You need to be respectful of other people, and the best way that you learn to drive is to be taught by a professional.”   Dutter believes that learning from a family member, like a parent, can hinder a youth’s capacity for picking up new information and skills, and I completely agree. Although, my consensus on her opinion developed by watching my sister and parents struggle to stop arguing during the teaching process.   “I think you can accomplish more with somebody who is a professional because they’re not related to you,” Dutter said. If you’re in a car with [someone] who does this for a living, the opportunity to learn—the environment to learn—is much better.”   Like I said before, the sincerity of Dutter’s desire to teach teenagers the necessary driving skills is great. I could tell she wanted to educate our class, which in turn, made me want to listen up.   “For me, probably the most heartfelt experience would be a student who is really afraid of driving—very emotional and has never driven before,” Dutter said. “And after six hours of lessons, I see their face light up when he or she gets into the car . . . and I know that I played a role.”