Experts say summer months are deadliest for teen drivers

(WSMV file photo)

One year after Williamson County Schools lost five high school students to deadly crashes within weeks of one another, educators have added one more tool to teach their students about safe driving.

This month, Williamson County Schools approved use of a $20,000 grant from the Tennessee Highway Safety Office to use virtual reality goggles and laptops as part of the Checkpoints program to simulate dangerous driving habits.

A driver’s education teacher told News 4 it's still a challenge to get teenagers to understand the risks, especially when they are following their parents' examples.

"I have some parents that will pick up their teenager when I walk out that door just to say goodbye, and the parents are driving up while on their phones to pick up their teenagers from driver’s ed," said driving instructor Chris Medina, who is also the owner of Spanky’s Driving Academy in Franklin.

Many of Medina's students attend Williamson County Schools and remember when tragedy struck the district last year.

Five teens lost their lives in different wrecks all within weeks of one another from November 2016 to January 2017. It forced school administrators to rethink driver safety.

In January, the district formed a task force. At the start of the 2017-2018 school year, student drivers had to take a safe driving course before they could park on campus. In November, a $20,000 grant for virtual reality technology will be another tool for educators to use.

"I think that's a great idea. I don't think the school should be responsible for that though. I think the parents should take responsibility on teaching their teenagers and enrolling them in something outside of their school," Medina said.

Medina said more parents began signing their children up for driver’s education following those deadly crashes. He said during the school breaks students will have five days worth of classes with two lessons each day, which contributes to the required 36 hours of instruction before a driving test.

Medina thinks more awareness is better for teens, but it comes down to resisting the urge to drive distracted.

"It's just been the past two years that's we've seen an uptick in car crash fatalities, and I'm fully convinced it's because of the cell phone," Medina said. "They're 'intexticated' not intoxicated. They're 'intexticated.'"

Williamson County Schools plans to start its virtual reality training in the spring, and district administrators said the program will rotate throughout the high schools.

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