In Cooperstown today State Senator James L. Seward (R-C-I/Oneonta) unveiled a $35,000 senate grant to help begin a safe driving program for students at Cooperstown High School. Seward was joined by Superintendent Mary Jo McPhail, Principal Gary Kuch, Penney Gentile, mother of Chris Gentile, a Cooperstown senior killed in a car accident in April of 2007, and Mark Zimmerman from Royal Chrysler of Oneonta.
The $35,000 senate award will help fund the school district’s "21st Century Driver Training Program," a school-based driver education program that will include classroom education, driving simulation, on-the-road training and interactive programs. Successful completion of the course will lead to a state DMV student certificate of completion. The district is raising funds through private sources as well.
"If we want safer roads and fewer accidents, we have to look at ways we can increase the quality and the availability of driver education," said Senator Seward. "Cooperstown is stepping up to the steering wheel and working to make it a reality here in our area. I commend the district, and Penney Gentile, who has turned her sorrow into advocacy, for their efforts."
The initiative was launched following an October presentation at the school by C. Alan Brown, a Georgia man, who promoted driver education in his state following the death of his son.
According to the National Traffic Safety Administration, traffic accidents are the leading cause of death for persons ages 15 to 20. Teen drivers, mile to mile, are in three times as many fatal crashes as all other drivers. More than 7,000 teens die annually in traffic crashes.
Seward also discussed senate legislation called "SAFE-TEEN New York," a comprehensive package of bills designed to keep New York’s younger, less experienced drivers safe while on the road. The bills include S.6985, sponsored by Seward, and inspired by the Gentiles, to create an advisory panel on driver education availability and curriculum enhancement, in order to improve the quality and availability
of driver education in New York State. The senate has approved the measure and it is pending in the assembly.
"Driver education is currently not available to many teens in a school setting in New York State, and that's the most convenient and likely place for teens to get driver education. The legislation passed by the senate would offer a look at how we can improve driver education and make it more available in schools without burdening property taxpayers," Seward said.
The SAFE-TEEN New York driver safety package includes legislation to:
> S. 8019 - Establish a SAFE-TEEN New York Driver Safety Commission to examine a wide array of factors that contribute to the high rate of car accidents involving teen drivers and make recommendations for new programs, policies, and statues to improve teen driver safety;
> S. 8017 - Authorize DMV to produce a SAFE-TEEN NY sticker and make the sticker available to all parents and legal guardians. The stickers would help alert law enforcement and other drivers to the fact that a car is being driven by a young, and potentially inexperienced, driver;
> S. 8018 - Require parents or legal guardians to attend court appearances when teen drivers are issued traffic violations;
> S. 8124 - Limit the number of non-family member passengers under the age of 21 who can be riding in a car when the driver holds a class DJ or class MJ learners permit or license; and
> S.4698 - Increase the number of supervised hours required before the issuance of a class DJ or class MJ license from twenty to fifty, and ensure that at least some of those hours consist of night driving.
Seward also announced:
*$10,000 in senate funding for the Cooperstown School’s Kid City playground for its K- 5 students. It will replace the decades old Robert Leather Playground, which no longer meets standards;
*$20,000 for the Edmeston Central School District to supplement regular state aid;
*$10,000 for the Gilbertsville-Mt Upton S.D to supplement regular state aid;
*$40,000 for the Laurens Central S.D for technology upgrades and equipment;
*$20,000 for the Milford Central SD for operating aid and emergency generators.
"The funding helps reduce pressure on local budgets and local property taxpayers," Seward said. "It’s all about property tax relief."