NHP class helps young drivers

RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - The Nevada Highway Patrol's D.R.I.V.E program was created nearly a decade ago. It's a traffic safety class taught by NHP troopers and it's been featured at the Jan Evans Juvenile Justice Center for the last four years. Minors who get traffic tickets go through the Juvenile Traffic Court and many end up in this class.

"What the program is about is teaching these new drivers about the respect for cars," said Trooper Dan Gordon of the Nevada Highway Patrol "It's about getting them to change their perspective about what it means to drive a car. That's a very adult responsibility and even though they're under 18, they are an adult when they drive a car. So we get them to kind of change their way of thinking about the adult consequences that can happen in the event of some poor decisions they can make while driving."

Car crashes are the leading cause of death for teenagers and Gordon says distractions and inexperience are two major factors that lead to accidents.

"And the majority of these are single-vehicle crashes; it's their car and their car only, and usually they're doing something," he said. "Maybe they're distracted for a split second or they're inexperienced because they've never been in a real-world bad experience before."

The course is designed to be relevant and timely; the examples are recent ones that involve teen drivers.

"We want for them to look at a slide or a video and say, that could be me," Gordon said. "I know what I did to get in here - whether it was speeding, weaving, reckless driving or whatever it was - and say okay, I was doing that; luckily I didn't crash or hurt or kill someone, but the next time if I make that poor decision, that could be me up there."

It's also designed to be interactive and engaging, which some of the students weren't expecting.

"I was honestly expecting it to be really boring, three hours of power point slides," said Ali Hernandez of Reno. "But the instructors are really entertaining, they're really nice and the whole class is really helpful; we're learning a lot."

The students take a test before and after the course.

"The pre-test average is a little over 40%, which is not good," Gordon said. "But the post-test average is over 95%. We've been doing these tests for four years and statistically we know that what they're learning on the way out is far different from what they thought they knew when they came into class."

The hope is the lessons will resonate when these drivers get back behind the wheel.

"It's definitely been worth my while," Hernandez said. "I'm glad I came; it wasn't what I thought it was going to be."