Summit County could be the new home of police-led driving school
February 21, 2017
A new driving school in Summit County aims to match students with police officers as their instructors.
The 911 Driving School currently has a location in Westminster, Colorado, and announced on Tuesday that it is looking for franchising opportunities in Summit. The school offers programs for teens just learning to drive, as well as programs for adults.
Colorado law requires that drivers under the age of 16 and six months have six hours of behind the wheel training, unless they are more than 30 miles from a full-time certified driving school. The closest locations listed on the Division of Motor Vehicles website are in Gypsum and Steamboat Springs. This means that teen drivers in Summit need to have an additional 12 hours training behind the wheel. The 911 Driving School's Westminster location is included on the list, and a new location in Summit could help ease the behind-the-wheel requirement for teens.
Colin Remillard, a trooper with the Colorado State Patrol, said that when teens first start driving they tend to be safer. But once they hit 17-19 years of age they start to get more comfortable, and that's when they start to develop reckless driving habits. Remillard added that most of the accidents he deals with are caused by impatience, people trying to get to places faster, whether they're pedestrians or behind the wheel.
"The overarching reason for crashes is (going) too fast for conditions, especially in winter," he said.
Car insurance rates for teens and young adults are higher, particularly for men. Douglas Berg, the owner of Farmer's Insurance in Frisco, said that this is partially due to the inexperience of drivers. Once drivers turn 25, they get a discount on their rates. Young drivers can stay on their parents' insurance policy while they are living at home or attending college.
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Berg added that rates are decided by zip code. Areas with fewer cases of theft and traffic incidents will also have lower insurance rates. Summit has a slightly lower rate because there is less chance of hail damage in the area.
A school with a focus on inclement weather could be a benefit for Summit County. Remillard said that it's important to stress the physics of slowing down in icy conditions. He added during the winter season there can be 10-15 accidents per trooper in one day.
John Minor, the Silverthorne chief of police, said that in Summit, drivers could be facing inclement weather for eight months out of the year. Minor was previously a driving instructor for police officers looking to get certified in the state of Colorado.
"Any time we can get young people, especially behind the wheel, some quality instructors is a good thing," he said.
Remillard said that law enforcement officers can make good driving instructors because they have a different set of driving skills. Officers think ahead while driving, and more frequently see when things go wrong.
"We can impart a different perspective than most people can," he said. "Driving is a very everyday part of life, and a lot of people take that for granted."
Tom Wickman, the chief of police in Frisco, also said that law enforcement officers could be more likely to catch when students are doing things wrong.
"Because you're used to looking for violations, you just see it all the time, whereas I think if you're not in the kind of work we do, you don't; you probably don't pick up on them as much," Wickman said.
But personality can also make an impact on being a driving instructor.
"Just because you're a police officer, doesn't mean you're a driving instructor," said Dillon police chief Mark Heminghous.
He added that he wanted to learn more about the company before deciding what the benefits of a police-led driving school could be.
The police chiefs in Summit all agreed that accidents involving teens in Summit do not happen at a higher rate than other age groups. Minor said that many of the incidents that happen in Silverthorne are minor, and could be avoided. He added that this kind of driving school could potentially help to avoid accidents, injuries and potentially fatalities.
"You can't put a price on that," he said.
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