Class caters to young drivers

Alive at 25 helps students recognize hazards when they're driving

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Thousands of American teenagers die behind the wheel of an automobile every year, often the result of risky or careless driving.

Bringing attention to and changing dangerous driving habits is one of the goals behind the Alive at 25 program, a National Safety Council-developed class offered to drivers ages 15 to 24.

Alive at 25 has been offered to local teenagers for the past five years, but increasing demand and Steamboat Springs High School student driving regulations have led to the development of an expanded schedule for the program.

Steamboat Springs High School campus supervisor Dennis Hensen and school resource officer Deb Funston recently were certified to teach Alive at 25, greatly increasing the number of sessions that can be offered to young Routt County drivers. The next class is at 4 p.m. Tuesday.

The 4 1/2-hour course is offered in a classroom setting and does not involve driving, Hensen said. Instead, the course focuses on common issues that pose a danger to young and inexperienced drivers. Issues such as cell phone use, driving a car full of loud and rambunctious friends, being in a hurry, listening to music and a variety of other factors too often lead to tragedy when young drivers are behind the wheel, Hensen said.

"It's not how to drive but how to recognize hazards when you are driving," he said. "That's what we stress. When you get in the car with your friends and you have a lot going on, these are the kinds of things that get you into trouble.

"It's how to deal with your friends when they say, 'Hey, catch up with that guy,' or, 'Pass that guy.'"

The course, which costs $30, involves role-playing and other activities, Hensen said.

"It's all participation," he said. "Kids don't get to just sit there. They have to take part in the class."

Safety aside, there are other good reasons to take Alive at 25. For one, Steamboat Springs High School students are required to take the course if they want open-campus privileges. Course completion also enables unlicensed drivers to obtain their learner's permits at 15 1/2 years old instead of waiting until they turn 16. Because state law requires new drivers to have a permit for one year before they're eligible to receive their licenses, taking Alive at 25 could allow some teenagers to receive their licenses when they turn 16 1/2 years old instead of 17. Teenagers also can receive their driver's licenses earlier by taking a variety of state-approved driver education courses.

Also, some insurance carriers offer reduced insurance rates for young drivers who complete the Alive at 25 class.

Anyone interested in registering for an upcoming Alive at 25 course can do so by visiting www.alive-at-25.org and clicking on the "Register" link to find upcoming Steamboat Springs offerings. Hensen and Funston hope to offer the course on the first and third Tuesdays of every month at the Steamboat Springs Community Center.

-- To reach Brent Boyer call 871-4234

or e-mail bboyer@steamboatpilot.com

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