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Driving ‘smart’ is focus of upcoming classes

August 21, 2012

Car crashes are the leading cause of teen deaths, states CHP’s 2011 press release. From 2006-08, 34,086 fatal and injury collisions involved at least one 15- to 19-year-old driver. With interactive programs like Start Smart, CHP seeks to encourage California teen drivers to make good choices on the road. Photo courtesy MetroCreativeConnection


In response to escalating statistics, Bishop California Highway Patrol will offer several Drive Smart program classes for young adults and senior citizens, free classes which are designed to lower vehicular collision-related injuries and fatalities.

According to Bishop CHP press releases, California has the nation’s “second highest fatality rate” for 15- to 20-year old drivers. It goes on to cite  2009 statistics, the most recent available: “3,571 injury collisions” involved drivers 65 years of age and older, and as many as 130 fatal collisions were caused by that same demographic.

Bishop CHP’s “Adult Distracted Driving” and “Age Well, Drive Smart” campaign agendas are designed “to raise awareness regarding senseless collisions involving senior drivers, inattention and distracted driving,” states the press release.



Distraction alone plays a major part in collisions, states “Driving is a skill that requires your full attention to safely control your vehicle and respond to events happening on the road, (involving) constant and complex coordination between your mind and body,” the website states. According to the website, anything that prevents safe vehicle operation is a distraction. There are three kinds of distractions. “They are anything that takes your eyes off the road (visual); mind off the road (cognitive); or hands off the steering wheel (manual).” Furthermore, distractions are usually layered. For example, by changing a radio station, “you take a hand off the steering wheel to press a button and take your eyes off the road to look at what button you want to press.”

Bishop CHP Officer Brian Mackenzie will be conducting the Age Well, Drive Smart classes. Among other things, during the one-hour class, “we will be discussing cell phones, the law and special parameters for drivers” in this age group, said Mackenzie. And, he added, “we do some myth-busting about older drivers” which can be very empowering.

The class, which is free of charge to all drivers 65 years or older, will be offered four times in hopes of accommodating busy schedules: at 3 and 5 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 30 and at 8 and 10 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 8. Drivers are asked to register by Aug. 30 for the Thursday classes and by Sept. 7 for the Saturday classes. 


According to’s 2008 fatality statistics,  593 people died that year due to collisions involving 15- to 20-year-old drivers: 217 young drivers, 161 passengers of young drivers, 148 occupants of other vehicles and 67 non-occupants. And these numbers do not include young-driver-related injury collisions.

The website also states, “Teenagers tend to take more risks while driving partly due to their overconfidence in their driving abilities … (They) are more likely to engage in risky behaviors like speeding, tailgating, running red lights, violating traffic signs and signals, making illegal turns, passing dangerously, and failure to yield to pedestrians” and are less likely to wear seat belts. 

The website goes on to state that “for teenagers, the risk of being in a crash … is 3.6 times higher when they are driving with passengers than when they are driving alone.” The more passengers, the greater the risk, especially  with age-peer passengers who can “encourage them to take more risks, especially for young males riding with young male drivers.” 

The crash rate for teenaged drivers is three times higher after 9 p.m. because night driving is more difficult and young drivers have less experience driving with it; “they are more sleep deprived; and/or because teenage recreational driving, which often involves alcohol, is more likely to occur at night.” Driving under the influence throws more fuel on the teen-driver-collision-rate fire.

To help ameliorate  this reality, Mackenzie and fellow Bishop CHP Officer Dennis Cleland will tackle the teen/young adult drivers class as a team – guest speakers and other Bishop CHP members will join them. “Start Smart, Driving Smart to Stay Safe” is for that 15- to 20-year-old driver demographic.

Among other things, the class will be about “decision-making – making the right decisions at the right time – and how parents can help,” said Cleland. He added that he strongly encourages parents to register and take the class with their children so they are aware of and can help encourage their children to use these preventative measures.

Mackenzie went on to say that parental involvement in “Start Smart” reinforces the class’ “large impact on young drivers. They really are unfamiliar with the actual consequences of traffic collisions. The videos are very graphic.”

The two-hour class, free of charge to 15- to 20-year-olds and their parents will be held twice, on Saturday, Sept. 8 at noon and 3 p.m. Drivers and their parents should register by Sept. 6.

Be forewarned: all of these classes include graphic footage of real collision scenes 

Although class size is limited by classroom space, if there’s  room, said Mackenzie, drivers are welcome to take the class more than once if they like. 

To registration and for all classes go to the Bishop Area CHP Office, 469 S. Main St. For more information, contact officers Cleland or Mackenzie at (760) 872-5960.

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