Friday, 19 July 2024

CHP's 'Start Smart' program aims to equip teen drivers with life-saving knowledge, skills

LAKE COUNTY – Many young people are eager to get a driver's license in order to get on the road.

But getting behind the wheel proves deadly for many young drivers.

The leading cause of death for US residents between the ages of 15 to 20 is motor vehicle collisions. That's just one of the sad statistics reported by the California Highway Patrol.

Lake County’s CHP office in Kelseyville is dedicated to reducing the amount of teen deaths and injuries that occur as a result of traffic collisions, said Officer Steven Tanguay.

As part of that mission, the CHP office on Live Oak Drive at Highway 29 in Kelseyville is hosting a free, two-hour driving safety class at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 4.

Tanguay reported that in Lake County in 2008 there were 111 collisions involving drivers between the ages of 15 and 20. Out of those 111 incidents, young drivers were at fault in 88 of them.

With those statistics in mind, Tanguay and Officer Adam Garcia, both public affairs officers for the CHP's Kelseyville office, decided to see if Lake County’s parents with teenage children might be interested in taking advantage of the Start Smart program.

Start Smart was started by CHP Monterey in 2002, he said. The program is funded by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Tanguay also said that between 2005 and 2007 there were 1093 start Smart Classes in California, reaching 13,594 teenagers and 9,279 parents.

“It is designed to reduce the number of teenage deaths," said Tanguay. “This class is a test to see if we should do monthly classes.”

Tanguay recommended that participants in the Start Smart class be parents with one or more teenage children since the program is designed to work with them both.

So far, four adults are bringing five teenagers. One woman already enrolled in the upcoming class is bringing her daughter along with her daughter’s boyfriend, he said.

“This program is for 15- to 19-year-olds,” he said. “We have not yet had any programs specifically for teenage drivers that I know of. The class will cover parental responsibilities, defensive driving and collision avoidance techniques, like appropriate space cushions.”

Tanguay added that if this first class is a success, another one would be offered as soon as two weeks later.

Nationally, about 5,000 teens will die in automobile crashes, according to the Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System, or SWITRS, database. About 10 percent of those deaths are in California alone.

Lake County has seen a number of fatal crashes involving teenagers in recent years.

A crash in the Mendocino National Forest last August saw a 17-year-old Santa Rosa girl die, with a 16-year-old girl injured. A 20-year-old Sunnyvale resident, Nathan Winter, was driving, as Lake County News has reported.

In February 2006, local resident Nicole Ogulin lost control of her ATV on Bartlett Springs Road and crashed, rolling down an embankment. The crash ejected her and her teenage female passenger, who did not survive.

Officer Kevin Domby, who is working on the Ogulin case, said that a jury found her guilty of DUI late last year. Ogulin will be sentenced next month.

Tanguay has spoken with Lake County Probation about the possibility of using this class to educate teenage violators stopped for some sort of moving violation, like speeding.

As part of his duties to educate young people, Tanguay visits county schools to talk with students about drinking and driving.

He said he was just over at Lower Lake Elementary School talking to preteens about the dangers of drinking and driving along with Team DUI, another organization dedicated to educating kids about alcohol abuse.

“We want to get to them young,” said Tanguay. “We want kids to think about their choices and the consequences those choices might have.”

To find out more about the Start Smart program, call Tanguay at 707-279-0103.

E-mail Tera deVroede at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Follow Lake County News on Twitter at and on Facebook at .

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