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‘Braking’ down driver’s education for Park City teens

PARK CITY, Utah — In braking news, teenage driver’s are navigating the roads and navigating the laws of getting their Utah drivers licenses.

The Park City School District, among a few other entities, offer nonprofit options which may help families on a budget ensure their teen meets all the requirements among the handful of for profit companies.

The owner and founder of just one of the business which offer driving school sessions, is Joyce Younger, from Joyce’s Driving School. They serve lessons for families in Park City, Midway, Heber, and Kamas, they provide pickups and drop offs at student’s homes, schools, and work. 

Three things which are Park City specific in the unique teachings they give are:

  1. In winter, on any of the many hilly roads, ice can form rapidly, so always be in the good habit of stopping at stoplights/stop signs behind a car whereby you can see a little bit of pavement underneath the back tires of the car stopped in front of you to allow enough room for sliding or stalling. 
  2. In summer, there are many road cyclists. As such, if there’s appropriate space, move your car over either slightly, just to the center yellow line to drive go around road bikers, or if you can see ahead and around your car and the street is clear of oncoming cars, drive over the yellow line, around the bike, then return to your lane. If a cyclist is on a curve when a driver can not see ahead far enough, then stay behind the bike until it becomes clear visually to drive around them. 
  3. Younger told TownLift, “My biggest ask for adult drivers in Park City is that when they see a driving school car, from mine or any company, please don’t try to get around it too quickly. The whole reason we have Student Driver stickers on all four sides of our cars, is to let you know we have a new driver in there and therefore we’re not going to move sometimes as fast as you’d like us to. When someone does go around us fast, which is often, we simply use it as a teaching moment and explain to the teen behind the wheel how to handle ‘aggressive’ motorists.” She added, “Thanks everyone for your patience.”

Each state is different, however, in Utah new drivers are required to achieve:

  1. 30 hours of online classroom lessons, pass an exam
  2. 6 hours of behind the wheel sessions with professional passenger
  3. 40 hours of driving with parent passenger

At 15, Utah teens can start driving home from the department of motor vehicles after passing an initial exam conducted on a computer in Utah, which is not the case in all states.

At 16, Utah teens must spend six months driving only solo, with parents or guardians, or with siblings, no friends. That’s different from, for example Illinois where it’s 12 months.

Younger and her husband Mark, who is the school’s main instructor, know a lot about the difference. They started their company in Illinois when their own two children were teenagers in 2010. Since then, they expanded the business to Park City to be closer to their their daughter at college at the University of Utah, where she now works at the U of U Hospital in the burn unit. Their driving school in Illinois has expanded as well, and now has 23 employees and 22 cars. 

They have two Park City cars, Subaru Outbacks, and just the husband and wife team of teachers. That leaves a few days a week in the winter months for them to get to their other jobs as part-timers at Park City Mountain in the guest services department.

In Illinois, professional teachers usually have student drivers in their first experience of turning on a car and pulling out of a parking spot, then after many hours and multiple sessions, they get handed over to their parents. They have to hold a learner’s permit for nine months. In Utah, by contrast, they have to hold that permit for six months, and the teen drivers are allowed to begin practicing with their parents the minute they get said permit.

In Illinois, the required 30 hours of classroom lessons can be taken online, but in Utah, they must be taken in person.

Although there are pros and cons of every state’s rules and regulations, Younger said, “It would behoove Park City parents to make Behind the Wheel  appointments for the first weeks of their 15-year-old’s year rather than the last to avoid any bad habits even starting and so the driver’s ed instructors don’t find themselves playing cleanup close at the end of that year. Don’t wait to sign up for Behind The Wheel sessions until mere weeks before teens turn 16. Younger said, “In an effort to be in partnership with parents, I encourage them to sign up for the Behind the Wheel sessions right when their teen gets their learner’s permit. That way neither teen’s sports schedules, nor the driver’s school’s booked schedules won’t delay a perfectly timed, legal, safe 16th birthday driver.”

Completely coincidentally, their hometown in Illinois has one of the only few other year-round nordic ski jumps in America.

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