• John McGary, Woodford Sun Editor

Program aims to keep young drivers on the road – and alive

On a recent Monday evening in the Woodford County High School’s library, 20 or so young men and women gathered for a four-hour program designed to make them better drivers. Retired Kentucky State Police Trooper Ron Turley began by reminding them of the stakes involved every time they get behind the wheel. “There’s a reason we call it ‘Alive at 25,’” he said. “Because we’re trying to get you to age 25. Driving from (the ages of) 16 to 24 in the state of Kentucky … is the most deadly thing you can do … The good news is because of the graduated driver’s licensing program and programs like ‘Alive at 25,’ we’ve been able to reduce fatalities for your age group by 55 percent.” County Attorney Alan George said the program began early this year in Woodford County and recently resumed after being delayed by the pandemic. Some meetings are held in the high school library and others in the Owen Roberts Community Room at the Versailles Police Department. To be eligible for the program, which is sponsored by the National Safety Council, the drivers must be cited for a minor traffic offense, such as speeding less than 25 mph over the limit or disregarding a traffic light or stop sign. George makes the referral after explaining the program’s advantages to the cited driver – including the fact that its successful completion can keep those offenses off driving records available to insurance companies. “I don’t want to use the word ‘hide,’ but it does keep it off your public record,” George said. In some cases, completing the program can keep participants on the road, as drivers with a instructional or intermediate license will lose their license if they amass six points, he said. Despite the chance to keep their insurance premiums from rising (and become a better driver), not every person to whom George extends the opportunity to participate in the program takes it. “There are some who just want to get it over with and who may choose to do that, but that’s the exception, not the norm,” George said. Another advantage of Alive at 25 is its lesser cost – $110 rather than $182 for online state traffic school, George said. Alive at 25 can be a wake-up call for young drivers who don’t take their road responsibilities as seriously as they should – including the setting for many of the classes, he said. “Actually, I sort of like them going into the police building. I like that. I think that gets their attention. They’re used to going into a high school. They’re not used to going into a police station. At least, I hope they’re not,” George said. Instructors present a PowerPoint program with real-life examples of the dangers of bad driving, which the students use to fill out pages with topics like “Was this collision preventable?” “I don’t want them to think speeding, particularly at a young age like that, it’s no big deal. It is a big deal. They’re not the driver they think there are. They’re not primed to react as an older driver, an experienced driver, would if a deer runs out,” George said. He said the program just had its “first flurry” of graduates who saw their charges dismissed. “We are very early in this Alive at 25 process, but I am encouraged by it,” he said. “I do see benefits. I like the fact that they have to participate – they can’t just be a fly on the wall. They … must be engaged in the process. They must participate.” George said while texting and emailing while driving are not considered “moving violations,” he’ll make the program available for people cited for them. “Driving under the influence slows and dulls your reaction. Texting diverts your attention. Both of them are dangerous. …” George said. “Both detract from your ability to drive.”

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