LINCOLN, Neb. — The Nebraska Department of Motor Vehicles unveiled a new state program Tuesday designed to help teenagers learn safe driving skills.
The parent's supervised driving program will be distributed in DMV offices when teen drivers receive a learner's permit. The manuals include a driver's log and specific advice for parents teaching their children how to turn, park, and navigate rural roads or interstates.
Nebraska DMV Director Rhonda Lahm said the program was designed as a confidence-builder that encourages fledgling drivers to practice in different conditions — nighttime, rainy weather, highway driving and in cities — with a parent at their side.
"Teaching a teen to drive is truly one of the most challenging, and sometimes scary, tasks a parent undertakes," Lahm said. "I know. I've done it twice."
Nebraska allows drivers who have not passed a DMV-approved driver safety course to qualify for a school or provisional-operator's permit if they log at least 50 hours of driving time with a parent, guardian or licensed driver who's at least 21 years old.
Col. David Sankey, the superintendent of the Nebraska State Patrol, said 115 people have died in motor vehicle crashes so far this year, including 19 teenagers. Of those teenagers, he said, only six were wearing seat belts.
"As a parent, you make a difference in what kind of a driver your child becomes," Sankey said. "That doesn't mean they won't ever make a poor choice when they get behind the wheel. None of us can control that. But what we can do is set the foundation for respect needed when operating motor vehicles."
Gov. Dave Heineman said young drivers should take a formal driver's education course when possible. But he said the parent's supervised driving program offer can an alternative.
Clarissa Gove of Lincoln began to teach her 15-year-old daughter, Abi, how to drive about a month ago. Gove, a state employee, field-tested the program while they drove lightly traveled back roads around Lincoln's Air National Guard Base.
"It's really very easy to go through," Clarissa Grove said. "I've been driving for long that I really didn't know what to teach. This makes it all easy."
Nebraska enrolled in the program through a partnership with the Ford Motor Company, which covered the program's cost. The material was developed by the Safe Roads Alliance, a not-for-profit highway safety group. The group's president, Jeff Larson, said similar programs are in place in 13 other states, but are individually tailored. Nebraska's, for instance, includes specific lessons for driving on country roads.
The program includes driving manuals, online services and a mobile application that lets teenagers track their driving times.