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Driver's Ed Plan Raises Concerns Among Safety Advocates

There’s a proposal that’s tucked inside the budget adjustment bill that Ohio Governor Kasich is mulling over right now that’s raising eyebrows from groups that deal with teen drivers. One part of the budget bill would allow teens in Ohio to take driver’s education online so they wouldn’t have to go to classes at a local driving school. And that has people like Rick Oxender, who lobbies for Ohio AAA, asking questions about safety. "For 24 hours to have it entirely online, when you have no interaction with the kids, when the instructor has no interaction, he can’t see or hear attitudes, things like distracted driving, things like road rage, things like is a kid a potential to have attitude problems where they can talk to the parents to say 'Johnny is going to have a real problem here. He doesn’t want to give up the road for anybody.' Things like that." Oxender says AAA is not against part of the course being online. But he says there’s a problem with all of it being online, particularly when there’s no way to guarantee who is doing the work. "How do we know that that student is actually behind the computer and it’s not…â€?here little brother, here’s $5 , sit behind the computer if I do get a prompt," Oxender says. Oxender says Ohio families whose kids take driver’s ed. online will likely end up paying more than they are now for the service. And he says it’s not just families who will pay the price for this decision. "The brick and mortar schools and I think rightfully so, are worried about loss of jobs because they will obviously have fewer students taking the classes in their schools, have to lay off instructors and some of them testified in the senate that they might even have to close." Ruth Thompson of Cincinnati echoes that concern. She works for the 4 A International driving school. "I also think this will harm Ohio’s jobs," Thompson says. "When you Google search 'online driving schools,' all of the top results are large companies that are based out in California. And in the greater Cincinnati area alone, we have about 10 driving schools that are small businesses, most of them are run by local entrepreneurs and all of them would be hurt by this Thompson says students would be hurt, too, because wouldn’t get personal attention they need. "I know from personal experience that it’s a lot harder to go through online classes than it is to go through regular classes because you don’t have that immediate feedback with the teacher." Thompson and Oxender say if the legislature wants to enact this idea, they should do so by putting it through the legislative process on its own so it can be thoroughly vetted. Governor John Kasich's spokeswoman Connie Wehrcamp says Kasich has not made up his mind about whether to line item veto this part of the budget bill. Wehrcamp says Kasich is still reviewing the issue.