North Sanpete takes driver safety very seriously
By Robert Stevens
MT. PLEASANT—Student driver safety is a very serious matter in the North Sanpete School District (NSSD).
Jon Hafen of Mt. Pleasant is a counselor at North Sanpete High School (NSHS) and also runs the student driver training program.
“I worry all the time about our student drivers,” Hafen says. “When I hear an ambulance go by, I check on my own family and then I think ‘I hope it wasn’t one of our students.’”
Hafen recently made an announcement in his driver’s ed class that any student seen driving without adult supervision on their learner’s permit will face consequences.
A teen can acquire their learner’s permit at age 15, but according to the law they must have it for six months before they can get their license, and they may not drive by themselves or with other minors in the car unless an approved driving instructor, parent or legal guardian who is licensed, is occupying the front passenger seat.
Hafen says he sees teens breaking the rule, and it scares him.
“If I see kids from my class driving around and breaking the rules, I will drop them from the class,” Hafen says. “And if you’re not in my class yet, I will delay your entry. That raised some eyebrows, but I have the administration and the resource officer behind me on it.”
The consequences for breaking those rules can have further reaching implications than most students realize too, Hafen says. Most kids try to take the driver’s ed class early enough that when they reach their 16th birthday, they can get their license right away. Under the new rule, kids who get caught breaking it might end up waiting longer than they think.
“It might set you back four months by the time you go back through everything and finish all the requirements,” Hafen says.
Hafen says he feels a strong need to encourage more parents to hold their kids accountable for breaking the rules when driving is involved.
Twice a year, the district puts on a Zero Fatalities class, which is meant to teach new drivers and their parents about driving behavior they need to avoid to be safe drivers. In order to pass the driver’s ed class, both the student and their parents are required to attend a Zero Fatalities class.
“I consider it so important that the parents take this stuff seriously too,” Hafen says. “Something I like to ask every parent is ‘would you feel comfortable if your kid drove exactly like you?’”
Hafen also says the fact that we live in a rural area is no reason to be more lax about driver safety.
“We’re certainly no big city, but we are growing enough that there is more traffic on the road,” Hafen says. “The truth is there is a need to have more concern about our kids. A lot of parents brush it off because we live in the country, but that is foolish.”
According to Hafen, there are more total crashes in the city, but more fatal crashes in rural areas. With more room to drive at higher speeds, a crash in a rural area is usually a bigger impact.
The attitude towards student driving safety saw a brief shift in the wake of the tragedy that cost three teen drivers their lives.
Hafen says the tragedy made the students in his driver training classes laser-focused on safety for a while, but as more time passed he has seen the attitude relax some.
“How easy we are to forget,” Hafen says. “There was a moment where I felt like I saw people being more serious, but it goes away. These issues aren’t new, but I am getting more passionate about it.”