CCPD plans to host permanent driving safety class

By Ed Brock

Allison Mimms of Morrow recently won $1,000 in scholarship money from the Safe America Foundation.

But money's not all she took away from the driving competition in which she won first place in April.

"It helped me to be a better driver," Mimms said.

Now the Clayton County Police Department is hoping to enter into a partnership with Safe America to operate a permanent "Teen Driving Institute" at the CCPD headquarters on McDonough Street in Jonesboro.

"If granted this will allow the Clayton County Police Department to become a south metro campus (of the Safe America program) to educate our teens and to increase their driving skills by utilizing driving simulators," said Clayton County Police Chief Darrell Partain at a county commission workshop one week ago.

The commission is expected to vote today on whether or not to support the partnership that would offer monthly lessons on computerized driver simulators. His department would train 28 police officers to serve as instructors for the program, and the cost of their training and the purchase of the simulators will make up the $155,500 expected startup cost of the program.

In the first six months students would pay a yet undetermined amount for the classes that would prepare them for their driver's license exams.

"Our ultimate goal, however, is a reduction of accidents and teen fatalities by education and experience," Partain said.

The school is part of Safe America's "Safe Teen Georgia" initiative that has been providing safe driving clinics, like the one in which Mimms competed, for about five years, Safe America President Len Pagano said.

According to Safe Teen Georgia literature, the program hopes to reach 10,000 to 20,000 teens a year. Along with simulator time the course will include classroom instruction on driving skills, maintenance, driving distractions, speed control and Georgia's driving laws.

Partain said that, if the school system approves, the class might be made available to 7th, 8th and 9th graders as well.

"It is currently planned to train as many as 1,000 students in 2005," Partain said. "It is then our hope that this initiative will then be recognized by the insurance companies for a reduction in rates for participating students and families within our county."

Geico, State Farm and Allstate insurance companies are already sponsors of the program.

A majority of the funding for the program will come from grants and contributions from the private and business sectors, Partain said. Clayton County Commission Chairman Crandle Bray and the other commissioners seemed supportive of the program.

"It's just a great opportunity for the children of this community," Bray said at the meeting. "I think you'll find our corporate sector will really be enthusiastic about this kind of program."

If approved the initial training for the class could begin in October and reservations for classes can begin being made by January.

The Morrow safe driving clinic in which Mimms participated was a different format from the regular classes and involved the use of golf carts on courses, not simulators. But Mimms said she would recommend the Safe Teen Georgia course to anybody.

"It's a good experience," Mimms said.