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Back to school safety is a priority for all drivers | #schoolsaftey

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The start of a new academic year can be both exciting and a bit intimidating— and today, many districts in Arkansas returned for the first day of school.

This means there will be more traffic on the roadways, including school buses and newly licensed drivers. 

A local driving instructor said that it’s critical to expect to see a jump in traffic and to pack your patience before you leave home.

Thompson Driving School is one resource that’s been teaching Arkansans the rules of the road since 1953. According to managers, this has been another busy summer training new drivers before the school year begins. 

Kelsie Nelson is a new driver who has a 2008 Volkswagen Beetle. She said that the reassurance of attending a driving school is huge.

“I’m pretty nervous.  But I also know what to do. And that helps me”, she explained. 

Nelson is among the thousands of drivers who have benefitted from the 70 years of experience at Thompson Driving, where instructors offer both lessons and confidence.

“We’ve been watching educational videos. Our teacher Rob has been cracking a bunch of jokes that we don’t always laugh at but they’re good and they help us calm down when we are getting a little nervous about driving,” said one student. 

Robert Bennett is the Director of Education at Thompson Driving, and he said it’s natural to be nervous when you’re first starting out. 

“It’s part of it, but we teach confidence and we do that through teaching the student the rules, teaching them how to physically control the car, and then they practice and we make them practice the hard things”, described Bennett. 

THV11’s own Jurnee Taylor took a test drive with Bennett, who asked what is the first thing you should do once you sit down in the driver’s seat.

Bennett was kidding when he said to start the car and the air conditioning before anything else— it may be hot, but first, you should put on your seatbelt!

Bennett admitted that his role is an important one, especially at the start of a new school year.

“Driving during school hours can be a frustrating experience. You have the increased volume of parents taking kids to school and then trying to get to work. You’ve got a group of new drivers driving themselves to school and we’ve got increased traffic from the school buses,” he described. 

However, Bennett said that technology in modern vehicles is helping to keep drivers safer, along with some old-school rules that have changed— such as placing your hands on the wheel in a clock formation of nine and three, instead of the former position of 10 and two. 

He credited airbags with saving more lives than any other improvements. 

“The biggest reason is the adaptation of the airbag. And this prevents you from damaging your bone structure. Possibly having your hands come back into your face gives the airbag the opportunity to do its job completely.  And now with some of the new technology out, you can mess with all of your 27 different buttons”, Bennett explained. 

Students agree that formal instruction helps give them the confidence necessary to hit the roads as a new driver.

“I definitely feel way more confident. Now that I’ve gone through this class,” Nelson added.

Bennett also had some advice for parents. While many families may spend money on tutors for their children, some do the driving instruction themselves.  

According to  Bennett, a parent teaching a child to drive can open the door to mistakes, since even long-time drivers may not be totally familiar with the current rules of the road.

For information about Thompson Driving, click here

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