In 2010, traffic fatalities among drivers between the ages of 16 and 24 averaged nearly one a week in Maine. Starting in early 2012, Maine Secretary of State Charles Summers hopes to curtail this figure by hosting a series of forums on youth driving in Maine. Summers’ “Conversations with the Communities” will run from January 5th to January 19th throughout the state, and are meant to engage citizens in discussions about updating Maine’s drivers education programs.
Maine statute requires that any proposed changes to laws governing standards for drivers pass through a Technical Review Panel (TRP), and Summers recently convened such a group. The panel is made up of representatives from a variety of organizations and state departments, as well as Sarah Beth Campisi, a sophomore from Thorton Academy and daughter of longtime Summers supporter Julie Campisi of Saco. Sarah Beth recently completed driver’s education and was invited onto the panel by the secretary.
Beyond simply looking for ways to reduce accidents among Maine youth, Summers hopes to create the opportunity for Maine to host the most educated young drivers in the country. “I believe that Maine driver’s education schools have done a terrific job, but the standards have not been updated since, I believe, 1996, and we need to establish a more consistent rhythm. In the time since the standards were updated, Maine drivers have begun to face new challenges such as distracted driving. The ways in which people learn have also changed.”
Summers suggested that the changes could perhaps see Maine’s driver education program move into a hybrid model involving online education. Summers testified against what he said was “online-only” drivers education during the 2011 legislative session, but believes that new ways of learning can be a great boon to young drivers. “If we can take some of the more routine practices of drivers education, and turn those into a prerequisite to be satisfactorily completed online before a student enters the classroom, then this could perhaps result in additional hours being devoted to practicing driving. In addition, driver’s education could have time to teach about distracting driving and dealing with bad weather. Maine driver’s education has done a great job, but learning has changed, and its high time we look at best practices. I believe that by doing this, we can create a system where we have the best-educated drivers in the country.”
According to the website of the Secretary of State, www.Maine.gov/sos, “Conversations With the Communities” will be held on the following dates at the local Bureau of Motor Vehicle Offices:
Thursday, January 5th in Lewiston at 6:00 p.m.
Monday, January 9th in Kennebunk at 6:00 p.m.
Thursday, January 12th in Portland at 6:00 p.m.
Tuesday, January 17th in Bangor at 6:00 p.m.
Wednesday, January 18th in Caribou at 6:00 p.m.
Thursday, January 19th in Calais at 5:30 p.m.
In addition, all the meetings will be broadcast online, and the secretary encourages every Maine driver, young and old, to tune in.