PENDLETON — The Pendleton Heights driver education program received some outside assistance recently to provide students with information not contained in the regular instruction booklet.
And through the efforts of Walmart and the Indiana State Police, it’s hoped these students will be better prepared for their time behind the wheel.
For more than 20 years, Walmart’s “Share the Road” program has been helping educate young drivers about the dangers of driving around semi-tractor trailers at public schools, civic groups and community events.
On a recent Friday, commercial drivers from the department store chain brought a truck to Pendleton Heights to help Marty Klipsch give more information to his driver education students.
“They were showing how big the trucks were and how big their blind spots were,” Klipsch said. “It gave them a first-hand perspective of what it’s like to drive a semi and what those drivers can and can’t see.”
The point of the program is to give young drivers a better understanding of how cautious they need to be while driving near the big rigs on roads and highways, he said. It’s something that is hard to understand just by reading about it.
“It’s to show what they need to do driving a car around a semi,” Klipsch said.
The summer session is one of three times Pendleton Heights offers the driving program.
The school, which is the only one in Madison County still offering school-based driving instruction, also offers a fall and spring session.
The cost of the program is $390 and fully funds the classes. The program receives no funding from the administration or from the state, which stopped funding driver classes as part of school curriculum during the early 1990s.
Klipsch said the “Share the Road” program is not drawing the interest it once did. The local instructors say the program was once being presented 20 times per summer, now it is just being shown to a handful of students. Klipsch says there are a number of reasons.
“The public schools don’t offer it as much as they used to,” Klipsch said. “The other part of it is the number of instructors is dwindling quite a bit. Just in general, whether it’s at a private school or a public school. There just aren’t many teachers becoming certified to instruct it anymore.”
He said part of the reason is the after-school time commitment, as the classes are no longer offered during the school day. But another concern is the reduction in experience among young drivers entering the program.
“I think a lot of it is they’re scared to get in the car with the teenagers,” Klipsch said. “We do have a brake on our side (of the car), but driver’s ed has changed in the last 15 years. In the past, you had students that grew up on a farm or in the country and they had experience. Now when we get them in the car for the first time, it’s the first time they’ve been behind the wheel of anything.”
Another safety presentation came from the Indiana State Police. Students were taught what to do if their car crashes into water; they also were allowed to wear drunk driving goggles and attempt to walk a straight line. Students are instructed on circumstances they might encounter on the road that don’t show up in the manual, and receive information from a State Farm insurance agent.
“They learn about the different types of insurance, liability and good driver’s discounts,” Klipsch said. “Then we have Scott Bertram from the Pendleton Police Department come in, and it’s more of an open forum for the students. They can ask any question they may want to ask a police officer.”
“It’s that little stuff that creeps up on you and you don’t know what to do,” Klipsch added. “It’s good for the kids to know what’s going to happen if they get pulled over — what kind of questions the officer is going to ask.”