A look into previous drivers ed programs and the options students have today

After a local driving instructor retired and closed his business, effectively halving the options for local instruction, students have had to travel further to access driver education classes and drive times.

“The original [school-based] course/driver’s ed program was ended because of the school budget. The course required a full-time teacher as well as a school car, car insurance, and gas,”  high school counselor Susan Leadholm said. “The cost of the program was too much for the school to continue. I doubt the program will start up again due to the costs listed above.”

Grant Allen offered an evening and summer class at the high school where students could learn everything they needed to know about driving. 

“I took driver’s ed with Grant Allen. Driver’s ed was a fun experience because I had a wonderful instructor who made learning enjoyable,”  senior Mia Handly said. “He cracked lots of jokes and made it really easy to grasp important information as everyone enjoyed spending time in his classroom the summer I took his course. The class was fairly early and long, but I am glad I took it with him.”

Now students have to look for alternative options if they can’t get a spot in the only other driver’s ed school that BRF offers.

“I took driver’s ed here last summer. For me, it was okay. It felt more like school than anything. We all sat in a classroom, had a packet with the information we had to read and had to take quizzes after we read,” senior Alexander Folkedahl said.

There have been some major changes to the guidelines that both students who took driver’s ed recently and in the past are not happy with. 

“A lot has changed in the last 2-3 years since I got my license with rules and requirements through the DMV,” Handly said. “Although, I think it is nice that new drivers can be waived off by parents, I am honestly glad I took an actual test.”

Students feel that the roads would be safer if everyone was required to take the test and that they would gain more experience by taking the test.

“I think a major difference would be the new rule that kids 16 and older can get their test waived, but 18 and older have to take the test,” Folkedahl said. “I think everyone should have to take the test. We all learned the same thing and should have to test our knowledge in the same way.”

Some students believe that with the test being waved as an option, parents might not be checking their child’s ability to drive. 

“I feel like, for parents, it could be so easy to just want your kid to feel the freedom and to trust them because they’re your kid,”  Handly said.

While students may know how to drive, they may not have real-world experiences that will make them a safer and more careful driver. 

“I do think it should still be required to get your license only if you take a driver’s test with someone from the DMV. People who work there are well educated on road safety and have to be proper about it,” Handly said. “However, as a normal citizen, it is easy to forget simple rules as sometimes it’s easy to just go through the motions once you are comfortable driving.”

This being said, with the limited options in our community, families are forced to drive farther to get the education they need. 

“In other communities, they take their course through a company in La Crosse. The course is online, but the driving practice/behind the wheel is done in La Crosse so parents would have to drive,” Leadholm said.

If parents are to sign their children up in BRF, there may be a longer wait for them to get their license. 

“The price of the class is around $350.00 because there is only currently one instructor. There is a waitlist and delay in getting hours completed behind the wheel,” Leadholm said.

This has become an issue and, in turn, has made students have to wait longer to gain the ability to drive. 

“I feel bad for them because most new drivers’ only option is to commute to Tomah or nearby towns to seek out driver ed instruction,” said Handly. “There is only one teacher in BRF now and he only offers so many classes a year.” 

These obstacles caused over the past few years have resulted in a major difference between the way past classes drive compared to present classes. 

“I think that the previous classes do drive better because they had a more disciplined regimen when it came to getting their license. Now, it’s very laid back and no matter how well you drive you can still get your license,” Folkedahl said.

The availability and options for driver’s ed classes in BRF are very limited and have greatly affected our community and the way new drivers get real-world experiences. 

“I think newly-licensed drivers need to have the real experience of doing a real drivers test, just to ensure they can drive well and stay focused under pressure,” Handly said.