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LA PLATA, Md. - Southern Maryland is beleaguered with drivers who tailgate and occupy the left lane like it is their birthright. These drivers refuse to yield the left lane to faster moving traffic. A quick flicker of headlights from behind is often seen as a call to road rage and not recognized as the international courtesy call to yield the passing lane to those that want to pass. Even local and state police cruisers can be seen weaving around these discourteous drivers. More than one privately-owned driving school vehicle has been seen hogging the left lane as other motorists create hazardous situations as they are forced to pass them on the right.
According to the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA), successful completion of a driver education course is one of the requirements for obtaining a Maryland driver's license. However, driver education is not provided as part of the normal curriculum in most Maryland high schools as it is in many other parts of the nation. While Calvert County does offer a driver's education class available through the school system, other counties primarily rely upon private driving schools--schools which many critics say have little state oversight.
Fortunately, the College of Southern Maryland (CSM) is offering a solution to the problem. CSM now offers Maryland MVA certified driver education training to students in Calvert, Charles and St. Mary's counties. Learning how to drive and doing it safely is one of the most important gifts of learning a parent can give their child, say school officials.
New this fall, classes for the upcoming semester in Calvert County are filling fast but there is still ample time to register, according to Susan Ross, CSM's acting director of industrial training.
Patient instructors who help students develop confidence behind the wheel and understand the seriousness of their subject matter are just a few of the reasons parents, friends, and insurance companies recommend CSM's driver education program.
"The instructor was awesome. The instruction was clear, serious and efficient. CSM instructors make the class fun while still teaching their students the life-saving skills they need for the road," said Tracy Phillips of Waldorf.
According to Mary Beth McCollum, CSM's transportation course manager, students in Calvert County can attend classes at CSM's Prince Frederick Campus or at Huntingtown, Calvert, Patuxent or Northern high schools. Tuition and fees for the driver education course total $295 and include a student/parent orientation, six hours of one-on-one behind-the-wheel instruction with a MVA certified driving instructor, and 30 hours of classroom instruction in vehicle control and maneuvering, operator performance and obligation, and reducing risk, injury and collision while factoring in environmental factors.
"One of the things that make our program different than others in the area is that our program is structured so that our students receive the technical and emotional training they need to drive safely in an efficient amount of time. We are really proud that most of our students complete their course work and driving hours in approximately six weeks," said Ross.
Students are not the only ones benefiting from the driver education courses; parents are encouraged to follow their child's progress and are required to attend the parent/student driver orientation.
"Initially, I complained about having to stay for the three-hour orientation as I already 'knew' how to drive. But what an eye-opener that class was," said Mary Mitchell Cox of Waldorf. "I used to be guilty of always being in a hurry to get to my destination, and sometimes I would lose my patience with other drivers or driving conditions. The orientation was a wake-up call. Tickets, fines, what am I gaining from rushing? Now, I really try to slow down and think about what I am doing behind the wheel," Cox continued.
"I have three other daughters who attended other driving schools and they have had their share of difficulties behind the wheel. While my youngest, Jordan, has always been responsible I really do feel like the instruction that she received at CSM has made a difference. The CSM program reflects the seriousness of the topic. The instructors not only give them instruction but they back it up with stories about some of the regional accidents that have occurred that could have been avoided if the driver would have had more training behind the wheel," Cox said.
Calvert County Driver Education Course Start Dates:
* Sept. 5, Huntingtown High School
* Sept. 7, Calvert High School
* Sept. 26, Paxtuxent High School
* Sept. 27, CSM's Prince Frederick Campus
* Sept. 28, Northern High School
* Oct. 24, Huntingtown High School
* Oct. 26, Calvert high School
* Nov. 26, Paxtuxent High School
* Nov. 29, CSM's Prince Frederick Campus
* Nov. 30, Northern High School
* Start dates are for orientation only, please consult class schedule for classroom location and times.
For information on CSM's driver education programs call 301-934-7870 or 301-870-3008, Ext. 7870 for Charles County; 240-725-5499, Ext. 7870 for St. Mary's County or 443-550-6199, Ext. 7870 for Calvert County or visit http://www.csmd.edu/.../driversed/.
For information on obtaining a Maryland driver's license visit http://www.dmv.org/md-maryland/first-time-drivers.php.