Editorial: Drivers’ education adapting to today’s problems

The older people get, the more they come to appreciate the need to adapt.

If you're someone born during the baby boom years after World War II, chances are you know that better than most.

You remember the days before color TV, remote controls, cable TV, VCRs, home entertainment systems and a whole host of other new technologies that seemed to pop up one after the other with amazing frequency.

And as strange and wonderful as they may have seemed at the time, we learned how to adapt and use them to our benefit.

The same is true today. For example, look at the training young people in Watertown are receiving in drivers' education classes.

When the Baby Boomers were learning to drive instructions were pretty basic: Where to put your hands on the wheel, how to use hand and/or car turn signals, how to drive a car with a standard transmission because in those days an automatic transmission was considered an option on many cars.

Today, a manual transmission is an option and the automatic is standard. But we learned how to do all those things and more.

To young drivers today just learning the rules of the road, a lot of those instructions from back then are ancient history. Watertown High School is in the process of holding its annual summer drivers' education program and has adjusted its lessons to fit the times.

Although some of the things students are learning are the same as we learned 40 or more years ago, there are others that we never dreamed of.

Distracted driving is one of the topics now being covered.

With the proliferation of technology and how easy it is to use just about anywhere, anytime, a lot of people don't think about the problems it can cause.

Talking on a cell phone, sending a text, following your links on Facebook, Twitter or some other social networking site pose dangers while behind the wheel of a car.

Throw in fiddling with the stereo, applying makeup, eating, chatting with passengers or any number of other common activities and it's easy to get distracted while driving.

And that's a problem.

If you're not paying attention to what you're doing, you can't be paying attention to what other drivers are doing and that can lead to serious, sometimes fatal, consequences.

The drivers' education course at WHS recognizes that and incorporates the problem into its instruction process.

Students get behind the wheel of a golf cart in a parking lot and attempt to navigate through an obstacle course marked by highway cones. While driving the cart, they either eat an ice cream cone, use a cell phone or do something else that's distracting. Not surprisingly, obstacles are hit more often than not.

Hopefully, students will learn and remember the lesson from the parking lot and realize the problems distracted driving can cause in the real world.

Instead of a highway cone getting clipped it could just as easily be another vehicle or a person walking down the road.

It's a good lesson to learn and remember, and one students hopefully will take with them.

That's why the driver's ed program has adapted its instruction to the times and real world situations new drivers are facing. It's something us older drivers would do well to learn and remember as well.

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