Students get a crash course on safe driving

20 students from seven school districts participated in the event at Washington High School

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Roberta DiLorenzo chuckled a bit after completing the tougher-than-expected obstacle course in the Washington High School parking lot to practice safe driving.

The school district’s superintendent had a little trouble negotiating a chicane and needed a couple of attempts to parallel park at the end of the course.

“OK, what’s the damage?” DiLorenzo asked the tester, who calculated her score as a 33 out of 75 total points. “Well, I’m glad they don’t have those (chicane) cones on I-70. It didn’t look too difficult until you do it.”

DiLorenzo was the first to attempt the course Friday morning as 20 students from seven area schools participated in several driving activities to enhance their skills on the road.

Students from Washington, Trinity, Canon-McMillan, Burgettstown, Ringgold, Bethlehem-Center and Jefferson-Morgan spent the day completing written exams, interactive tests and the driving course. Mike Maltony, Washington School District’s driving teacher, said it’s a nice supplement to the state-mandated testing for minors when they earn their driving permits or licenses.

“I hope they realize (driving) isn’t something that they just jump in and go. There much more to it,” Maltony said. “What daily skill do you use more than driving? Every day, you’re on the road.”

One skill Burgettstown junior Hunter Lecker doesn’t use much is parallel parking. Living in northern Washington County, he said the last time he parallel parked was when he took his state driving exam.

That was evident when he attempted parallel parking, trying it a couple of times before pulling in to the makeshift curb. However, he performed well on the other obstacles and received high scores.

He said the courses and instruction helped him to be a better driver by stressing the importance of not driving while distracted.

Maltony said distracted driving involving cellphones or other mobile devices is the biggest danger facing motorists today, compared to when he began teaching 14 years ago.

“It’s getting crazy,” Maltony said, acknowledging that adults also are big offenders. “If you don’t set the right example, what good is that?”

After taking the course, DiLorenzo admitted that even seasoned drivers could use an occasional refresher on the rules of the road.

“Everyone who gets in a car thinks they know what they are doing, but we all have little slips,” DiLorenzo said.

The exercises and obstacle course travel to numerous school districts in a program organized by the state Department of Transportation, state police and Automobile Association of America.

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