By Brandon HENSLEY
Police officers in Altadena will try to get teenagers under a different kind of influence next week, as they will hold a program designed to educate young drivers about peer pressure, drunk driving and driving while being distracted.
The program, called “Start Smart,” will be held in the Altadena Community Center May 7 at 6 p.m., and again on May 22 at 6 p.m. The classes will be two hours long.
“This program specifically targets the teen driver to aid in the reduction of teen fatalities as a result of traffic collisions,” said Captain Bill Dance in the California Highway Patrol’s press release.
CHP Officer Ming Hsu said the classes are designed as a supplement to driver’s training. “It’s by no means a course that you would take to fulfill driver’s training …. It’s a program focusing on the causes of collisions made by teens,” he said.
Hsu said according to 2007 statistics through the Statewide Integrated Traffic Record System, teen drivers are found at fault in 66% of all fatal collisions they are involved in, and make up 4% of the state’s licensed drivers.
The National Highway Safety Administration said motor vehicle collisions are the leading cause of death for people 15 to 20 years of age.
Hsu said the program would cover lessons on drinking and driving, and the peer pressure that can affect young drivers when behind the wheel. Officers will also warn against numerous distractions that frequently jeopardize safety, including cellphones
“Start Smart” is taught statewide, and originated in the Monterey area. Hsu said the Altadena area used to hold classes in the early 2000s, but hasn’t for several years. Hsu said they hope to combine with multiple agencies, including the Pasadena, Glendale and CV departments to hold more classes throughout the year, but when those will happen will be based on how these classes go.
“Until those are complete, and we see how it goes, we haven’t decided on future dates yet,” Hsu said.
Some graphic pictures and videos will be shown in the class, and each teenager must bring a parent or guardian and sign a waiver prior to the class. The target ages to attend are 15 to 18 years old. Hsu said 14 years old is too young because, “What we want to see is application of what we taught … by the time they do get their license they’re going to forget [what they’ve learned].”
For more information, contact Officer Hsu at (626) 296-8100.