Brooke Willingham, 16, of Silverdale Baptist Academy sits and listens to driver's education instructor Bruce Johnson at Hixon's Old Middle School on Saturday. The City's driver education program has been around two years and nearly 900 teens have graduated from it thus far.
Daniel Ortega, 15, falls asleep while sitting next to Dana Ortega, 17, during a Driver's Education class at Hixon's Old Middle School on Saturday. The City's Driver Education program has been around two years and nearly 900 teens have graduated from it thus far.
897 People completing Chattanooga's driver's education program in the last two years.
27 Driver's ed courses offered by the city in two years.
12 City recreation centers where driver's ed has been taught.
Bruce Johnson has seen some poor drivers come through his program.
"I've had a couple of kids who didn't even know the difference between the brake and the gas pedals," said Johnson, a state-certified driving instructor.
But at the end of the course, the result is the same. Within a month, the young drivers are behind the wheel and cruising.
Chattanooga started its driver's education program two years ago, funded from revenue from traffic-camera tickets. Since then, 897 young people -- ages 15 to 22 -- have graduated and hit the road.
The city has spent $313,950 on the program, coordinator Caroline Johnson said. Collectively, families have saved almost $166,000 in car insurance premiums, she said.
"You'll reap the benefits of lower insurance right off the bat" if a teen has completed driver's ed before getting a license, she said.
Johnson said no one had any idea how the driver's education program would be received, but it helped fill a void because no local schools offered the training.
But the success has been substantial, with classes filled to the brim, she said.
The city partners with the Haman's New Drivers school to offer the class. Johnson said the city gets a $50 discount per student. The student pays $50, and the city pays $300.
Bruce Johnson, an instructor for Haman's and no relation to Caroline Johnson, agreed even more people could be enrolled if the school took in everyone who wanted the training.
"We could probably get twice as many in," he said.
Caroline Johnson said the program has been offering three classes per quarter but will expand to four per quarter next year.
She said she also wants to conduct more research on how the program is doing. She wants statistics on the young graduates' driving records, counting how many and what type of accidents they have had.
She also wants to begin offering refresher courses to older drivers.
City Councilman Jack Benson said he has been pleased so far with the results of the driver's education program. He said if it "saves one life down the road," it is worth it.
He said he also likes the idea that the money is coming from traffic citations.
"We're exercising the best traffic control we can, and we're paying dividends from it," he said.
Cliff has worked for the Times Free Press for five years and covers Chattanooga city government. He previously covered Rhea County, as well as transportation and growth and development in Southeast Tennessee. A native of Maryville, Tenn., Cliff graduated in 2003 from the University of Tennessee with a bachelor’s degree in communications with an emphasis on journalism. Before coming to Chattanooga, he was a crime reporter with Hernando Today, a supplement of The Tampa (Fla.) ...