UPDATE: As of Friday morning (Jan. 11), the free Jan. 23 Smart Start course at Del Norte High was sold out. Go to
to see when future courses are scheduled.
By Elizabeth Marie Himchak
Teens who recently received or will soon get their driver’s license are encouraged to attend the free Start Smart course at Del Norte High School.
The teen driver safety course will be 6-8 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 23 in the Del Norte High School Performing Arts Center, 16601 Nighthawk Lane in 4S Ranch. It is open to all, not just Del Norte students. Register at
A parent or guardian must also attend or the teen cannot receive the course certificate, said Officer Jordan Wells, juvenile services officer at San Diego Police Department’s Northwestern Division.
Wells said some schools, like Del Norte, require students have the certificate to obtain a campus parking permit. Other schools give a permit fee discount and insurance companies might give a discount too. He advises checking with one’s school and insurance.
The two-hour course includes tips to avoid collisions, safe driving habits, collision dynamics, consequences of a poor choice behind the wheel, testimonies from some tragically impacted by incidents involving new, inexperienced drivers, and parental roles and responsibilities including ways to encourage teens to become good drivers.
According to course materials, “a driver’s first year behind the wheel is the most dangerous time in his or her life. A teenager is killed in a traffic collision every 70 minutes nationwide. That is nearly 5,000 teenagers each year. Approximately 375,000 teenagers are injured in traffic collisions each year, regardless of whether they were operating the vehicle or were just a passenger.”
Officials said even though there are safer vehicles, better roads and many driving programs, statistics have not changed because of teens’ high-risk behaviors, including not wearing safety belts, speeding, and driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs, being drowsy or distracted. Distraction sources include passengers, electronic devices and music.
“The high crash-involvement rate for this age group is caused primarily by teens’ lack of maturity and driving experience, as well as overconfidence, high-risk behaviors and alcohol consumption,” officials said.
Wells said parents hold some responsibility too, especially during the first year when teens have a provisional license and are driving without a licensed driver 25 or older in the vehicle.
“First, they are not to drive with anyone under the age of 20,” he said. “Second, they are not to drive between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m.”
He said when teen drivers violate either condition of their provisional license they essentially are driving without a license and if an accident occurs, their insurance company “has every right not to cover for the collision.”
This is something he said parents often fail to understand — that they are taking on additional risk should their teen be in an accident that occurs while violating provisional license rules.
“They are allowing their child to drive because they ignore (the rules) or are not paying attention,” Wells said, adding that is why teens and parents must attend together, so all truly understand the serious consequences and dangers.
Start Smart was developed by the California Highway Patrol. Wells said the Jan. 23 presentation is being put on by San Diego Police, with assistance from San Diego County Sheriff’s Department.
For questions, contact Wells at firstname.lastname@example.org or 858-523-7039. For other upcoming dates and locations, go to www.sdsheriff.net/co_startsmart.html.