Teens in a traffic jam for driver's license - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Teens in a traffic jam for driver's license

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January 29, 2007

Albany- Joshua's law is creating a traffic jam across the state for Georgia teens trying to get their driver's licenses. In south Georgia, the waiting list for Albany Tech's Driver's Education class already has 200 people on it.

The new law requires 16 year olds to undergo behind the wheel training before they can get their licenses but many programs say they can't handle the number of teens who need training.

Generally about 60,000 of the state's 16-year-olds do not take driver's education. Because many of those teens are now signing up rather than waiting a year to get their license it's thrown up a stop sign for many teens rather than a green light.

Haley Fulford is lucky, she took her driver's ed class last summer and isn't stuck waiting like some of her friends.

"It was very helpful, you learned about things that you don't know about, like off of everyday life you just aren't told these things so by taking the class you learn things that you need to learn but don't know," said Haley Fulford, a 15 year old driving student.

Over the next two years 4,000 south Georgia students between 15 and 18 are expected to benefit from the classes, that is if they can get in. To meet demand, Deerfield Windsor is expanding their classroom instruction.

"We've expanded our classes to an extra week normally we just do one session we're going to do two sessions this summer to help accommodate the kids," said Gordy Gruhl, Deerfield Windsor driving instructor.

Deerfield Windsor is cutting their behind the wheel training. That's expected to increase the demand on others. Albany Tech's added three new instructors since the beginning of the year and still can't keep up. Their price is also rising with costs.

"I've held the line on that for some time now, but I'm going to raise it to 250 dollars per person after this school semesters out," said Bill Hammack, Albany Technical College, Driver's Education Instructor.

Despite the headaches, instructors say the program is worth it.

"Joshua's Law is probably the best thing that's happened to drivers safety in the state of Georgia for many, many, many years, I think we're already seeing a reduction in traffic incidents in this age group and I think were going to see that continue to decline," said Hammack.

For Haley it's helped her prepare for that big day coming in April.

"I will be very prepared, my parents did a great job of teaching me, my friends have done a good job of teaching me too. I ride around town a lot with them now so I've learned from their mistakes," said FulFord.

To get a license under Joshua's law 16 year olds must have 30 hours of classroom instruction and 40 hours of driving experience either supervised by a parent or a certified driving instructor, at least six of those hours must be night time driving.

Only about half of the state's 159 counties have driver's education program licensed by the state. The programs are especially scarce in rural areas.

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