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Seymour police training teen drivers

SEYMOUR, Ind. - Inexperienced drivers were placed behind the wheel Monday learning how to get out of potentially dangerous situations. Rule the Roads place teenagers with police to help reduce crashes.

The program runs young drivers, either students with a driver's permit or license, through a variety of hands-on training in a controlled environment. To run the courses, police took over the runway at the Freeman Municipal Airport on the southern edge of Seymour.

"What we want to do is supplement where driver’s ed left off and we want to teach them hands-on driving," said Seymour police captain Carl Lamb.

Roughly 30-40 students had several tests to go through. There was a driving simulator, where students had to avoid distractions from their friends. A semi-truck driver taught students about blinds spots and where truck drivers could and couldn't see other vehicles.

Most of the tests were behind the wheel, with a police officer in the passenger seat.

Tests such as the controlled skid car, which helped drivers learn how to correctly turn the steering while if they car spins uncontrollably.

"The skidding was definitely scary, said Seymour sophomore Gavyn Stagnolia, who has had his learner's permit for a few weeks. "You feel like you aren’t in control at all, because you really aren’t."

Other tests included a road course on dirt and grass near the runway, and a reaction test where police wanted the driver to make a quick turn and adjust without hitting cones.

"When you hear it from police officers and you get to actually drive police cars through the courses, you have a better idea of how to deal with it in the future," Lamb said.

Police have been holding Rule the Road sessions in Seymour for five years. One year in, crashes involving teen drivers dropped by 33 percent, according to Lamb. Each year since, crashes have continued to drop by roughly eight to ten percent annually.

The Indiana Criminal Justice Institute funds the program and looks for others like it to help reduce and eliminate crashes and fatalities in the state.

Lamb said his department is looking to hold Rule the Road twice a year starting in 2019 and expanding the program to include students at all five high schools in Jackson County.

Other police agencies were on hand to learn more about the program. They're considering starting the program in their communities.