New practice area will allow Lexington driver-education program to expand

gkocher1@herald-leader.comSeptember 10, 2012 

The addition of a second blacktop pad for student driving practice will allow more students to enroll in the Fayette County Attorney Driver Education Program.

Since the program begin in June 2011, 190 students have graduated, Fayette County Attorney Larry Roberts said.

"I think next year we'll graduate about 250 kids," Roberts said during a news conference Monday. "We'll be able to do two classes a day here instead of one class."

He showed off the new $390,000, 3-acre driving pad on top of a now-closed and sealed city landfill at 1745 Old Frankfort Pike. The new pad was built with donations from local contractors.

Before the new pad, the program used a 5-acre blacktop pad next door that also was used by Lexington police, waste management and other city divisions.

The driver-ed program is for new, licensed drivers who have logged at least 20 hours behind the wheel. It includes classroom instruction, use of a driving simulator and actual driving exercises. The non-profit program is funded through individual and corporate sponsors.

The course primarily teaches students to look out for danger, and how to react to it, said Billy Fryer, a former police officer who is a certified trainer in defensive driving.

"Teenagers do not understand what danger looks like, what forms danger comes in. They don't know where to look for it," Fryer said. "And worst of all, they have no idea what to do if they do recognize it in time."

The program shows how to react when a car skids, and how to prevent skids, Fryer said. The course also teaches braking and acceleration skills, proper use of mirrors and other safe-driving techniques.

Toyota cars used in the program are equipped with "skid monsters," devices that cause a vehicle's rear tires to lose traction. As a result, drivers get the sensation of an out-of-control vehicle.

The cost of the weeklong driver-education program is $200. Such courses are limited in Lexington. Fayette County Public Schools stopped offering driver-education classes more than 25 years ago.

State Farm Insurance gives a discounted rate for students who complete the course, Roberts said.

"We've talked to all the major insurance companies that do business here in Lexington and asked them to get involved in it," Roberts said. "I think they're watching us to see if this is really a real deal. I believe they'll eventually come around."

From 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, the driver-education program will offer "Celebrate My Drive," during which young drivers will be able to try some of the equipment used for the classes.

NASCAR Hall of Famer Bobby Allison will be on hand with one of his race cars, and police will offer a motorcycle demonstration.

For information about the driver-education course, call Roberts at (859) 226-1814 or go to Fayettecountyattorney.com/driver_education.asp.

Greg Kocher: (859) 231-3305. Twitter: @HLpublicsafety

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