Juvenile Court receives state grant for teen drivers

MIAMI COUNTY — Eight juvenile courts, including Miami County, will be providing more access to advanced driver training for juvenile traffic offenders and other young drivers.

The behind-the-wheel training will provide hands-on experience in an effort to improve driving skills and reduce at-fault youthful deadly car crashes, according to a release from Governor Mike DeWine.

Miami County Juvenile Court Judge Scott Altenburger said the $20,000 grant is being used to refer more youth to a program called Advanced Driver Training Program. The grant will help pay for the teen’s participation in the class.

The Court has been routinely ordering participation in the program since 2015, he said. The class is for six hours on a Sunday and parents attend with the youth.

“We are fortunate to be geographically near Professional Driving Systems, the first training facility in the state of Ohio to be certified to offer these classes,” Altenburger said. “Professional Driving Systems uses best practices and technology to focus on behind the wheel driver training.

Judge Altenburger said while teens seem to be driving less, their involvement in traffic accidents is on the rise. Teen accidents largely stem from failure to assure a clear distance ahead and are often attributed to distracted driving or driver inexperience.

Judge Altenburger said all youth with a second moving violation or a first moving violation, which results in an accident involving injury or serious property damage, will be considered for the program.

“The court is interested in correcting poor driving practices and making lifelong safe drivers,” he said “Participation is not mandatory and the court will consider whether to refer a youth to the program on a case-by-case basis.”

Judge Altenburger said Magistrate Rebecca Hall was instrumental in applying for the grant.

“She proposed using the money to help increase the number of youth taking the class, as the program has been successful in reducing repeat offenders,” he said.

Magistrate Hall said, “Teens who have completed the advanced driver training program report back that the behind-the-wheel driver training portion of the class was extremely informative and has helped them to be a more cautious, skilled driver. Their parents generally add that they wish their child had taken this class prior to getting their license, and that they themselves learned new driving skills. This grant will allow more teens and parents to experience these benefits.”

Last year approximately 10 percent of Miami County adjudicated juvenile traffic offenders participated in the Advanced Driver Training Program, according to Altenburger. Overall, there were 444 traffic cases in Miami County Juvenile Court in 2019.

The Court is hopeful with these funds to be able to increase the number of youth taking the advanced driver training program to approximately 80 youth each in the next two years.

Juvenile courts in Adams, Athens, Delaware, Fairfield, Knox, Medina, Miami and Pickaway counties each have been awarded $20,000. The grant is to increase the number of young drivers given the opportunity to participate in advance driving training. The funding was made available through the Youthful Driver Safety Fund established in the biennium budget and will be administered by the Ohio Department of Public Safety.