Ky. Voices: Drivers-ed program successful, should be in public schools

Larry Roberts
Larry Roberts

Teenage students in Lexington have not been able to get any driving education through our school system for over 40 years.

Each year, teenagers are involved in a large number of automobile accidents with the primary causes being driving too close for the speed and distractions.

In 2010, my first assistant, now-deceased Brian Mattone, and I decided to offer a Defensive Driving School for teen drivers in Central Kentucky. The main focus was to offer training from expert instructors on accident awareness and accident avoidance. With the guidance of our director, Billy Fryer, a former Lexington Police officer with 35 years experience teaching driving skills to police officers, we designed a school that consists of 20 hours of instruction over a five-day period on a state certified driving pad located on Old Frankfort Pike.

The creation of and maintence of this school is expensive. There is the initial cost for a driving site, cars, insurance, instructors and a classroom facility,

We established a non-profit corporation, and we are committed to never ask for government grants, because I believe the private sector will support this important program.

In 2011, this community stepped up with our requests for support. For example, Mayor Jim Gray and the city council gave us permission to use a driving pad on Old Frankfort Pike that was already being used by our police and sanitation departments. Rick Avare and Toyota on Nicholasville provided us with brand new Camrys and Corollas for our students to drive, and these automobiles are replaced every six months.

Doug Dixon, owner of Dixon Electric, donated the very expensive fit-up for our classroom building. Because of insurance agent Debra Hensley's passion about this program, State Farm Insurance has made several donations. Financial contributions from Toyota, Kentucky Eagle, Neurosurgical Associates, Dermatology Associates of Kentucky, QX.net, David and Paula Hollingsworth, and Mr. and Mrs. W.T. Young Jr. have enabled this program to sustain the basic operation costs.

Our first class was in June 2011, and to date we have graduated 350 students.

After two years of operation, we were having trouble obtaining the existing pad because of the constant needs of other agencies.

Because of the increased demand for our school to add more classes we designed another three-acre pad adjacent to the existing one. The cost of this project was more than $300,000, and in August 2012, it was completed thanks to the tremendous generosity of the following companies in this community: ATS Construction, Nally & Gibson, Tuft, Inc., Woodall Construction and Haynes Trucking.

Now, we will be offering classes in the afternoon during the fall after children are out of school.

If the demand escalates as I anticipate it will in the next few years, it is my hope the Fayette County Public Schools will take over this effort and offer driving education to all of our students.