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Decision will cause trouble down the road

It's difficult to disagree with the Hernando County School Board's reasoning that students should take more courses that are academically challenging. No course, even electives, should be such a breeze that students take it just to avoid more difficult material in core subjects.

Unfortunately, too many people, including members of the School Board, hold driver's education classes in that low regard. At a workshop meeting Tuesday, a majority of the board, with member John Druzbick admirably dissenting, agreed to eliminate the driver's ed program at the county's three high schools. They may continue to offer it as a non-credit, after-school course for which students would pay extra, but the curriculum, as we know it, is on the endangered list.

The board's about to make a wrong turn and it should turn back before it takes a final vote in April.

There is inherent logic and practical benefit to offering a standardized course of study for safe driving. Sure, most parents or commercial driving schools (for those who can afford them) can teach students the mechanics of operating a motor vehicle. What teenagers don't usually learn from that sort of instruction are the issues that accompany safe driving, such as the legal and physically injurious consequences of careless or drunken driving.

Many parents also are apt to overlook the nuts-and-bolts lessons they learned when they took driver's education, like allowing one car length for every 10 mph you're traveling when following another vehicle, or how to react in an emergency like hyrdo-planing, or who has the right of way at a four-way stop. It's enough of a challenge to sit in the passenger seat and coach your offspring on the use of the brake and gas pedals without having to reach back 15 or 20 years for safe driving facts.

Need proof? Next time you're out and about, look at the adult driving in the next lane and ask yourself if you trust that person to do a better job than a trained teacher to instruct a teenager to drive.

For a lot people, and especially those who already had a driver's license when they enrolled, driver's ed may have been just a way to get a good grade or a discount on car insurance. But some truly needed to practice the fundamentals. Even those who were already driving still learned from it, if not how to check the oil or change a flat tire, then to read a map or follow road signs.

Think for a minute about what you remember, and tell me which you rely on more every day: information you learned in driver's ed, or how to find the square root of an ordinate number?

I don't know of any studies that could prove it, but it's a fairly safe bet that kids who didn't take driver's ed are more likely to get into accidents, or be ticketed for moving violations. If we don't at least offer our children the opportunity to take classes at school, you can expect they will take them somewhere else later _ probably in a state-run driving school that is part of their punishment for breaking the rules of the road.

Instead of dropping driver's education classes, which attract more than 1,000 students each year, the School Board should be talking about the compelling reasons to make them mandatory.

Parents and grandparents who agree shouldn't hesitate to steer their elected School Board members in the right direction on this misguided curriculum change.

Family, taxpayers lose "one of the good guys'

Like many who knew him, I was shocked to hear about the death of Al Kroner last week. The 67-year-old former commissioner of the Spring Hill Fire Rescue District suffered a heart attack his home Monday.