Freshmen girls and boys disagree about many things, especially driver education.
“The boys backed into the ditch and we had to rock back and forth while they gunned it to get out,” student Krisde Robinson said.
“Yep, we were in the back seat, just chillin’ in the ditch,” Marissa Jacobson added.
Of course, Seth Savage and Aaron Riggs saw the incident from a different perspective, one backed by USD 408 driver education instructor Steve Janzen.
“Overall, this has been a pretty good group,” Janzen said. “Most had experience before they started driving with me, and we had few, if any, mishaps.”
Janzen, who has taught driver education to incoming freshmen in Marion-Florence schools since 1991, said all 35 students in his class this year passed their classroom work and were likely to earn their learner’s permits.
“There are some new licensing changes,” he said, “but essentially they come out of the two-week training with a learner’s permit that allows them to drive with an adult or anyone over 18 present in the vehicle with them.”
Janzen said the students then could then apply for a farm permit or complete an additional 50 hours of driving with an adult, including 10 hours at night. Then, when they turn 15, they will be eligible for a restricted license.
Only students living on 20 or more acres in the country are eligible for non-restricted farm permits.
Experiences new to driver education this year included navigating roundabouts and moving over for vehicles parked on the road.
“The kids from Florence are used to the roundabout because they will have to use it every day to get to school, but for others, that was a brand new experience,” Janzen said.
For Krisde, roundabouts and parallel parking were a breeze compared with making three-point turns and avoiding trees along Seth Savage’s driveway.
“Turning around on driveways was hard,” she said. “But I wasn’t the only one who almost hit a tree.”
Janzen, who lives in Florence, picks up one student and lets the students take turns driving to pick up the rest of the typical four-student driving team.
The scariest part of Marissa’s driving experience was when an elderly woman turned into the turning lane.
“I thought she was going to hit us,” Marissa said.
Janzen said that there were no major mishaps this year, but that the driver education care was hit another year by someone who ran red light in Newton.
“That was quite an experience for everyone involved,” he said. “The kids got a chance to go through the whole accident-scene procedure with the cops.”
Avoiding accidents is one of the main reasons for specialized segments of driver education. One emphasizes that kids should not talk or text on cell phones while operating a vehicle.
“The sheriff’s department gave us a tape to watch about kids killed right here in Kansas because of cell phone use,” Janzen said. “I didn’t hear or see any cell phones in the car or in class this year. That is good.”
Aaron Riggs was the only student driving Friday who already has his own vehicle.
“I just got a 1985 Monte Carlo,” he said.
Krisde said she did not care what she got to drive. With older brothers and sisters, she will have several different options.
“I think it is easier to drive a car,” she said, “but someday I want my own truck.”
The school-owned blue mini-van used for class was marked with a bright yellow “Student Driver” sign and could be seen around town maneuvering in and out of parking slots and making proper turns for the past two weeks. The students complete 10 hours of class time and five hours of driving time.