Drivers ed program suspended after traffic camera law

Drivers ed program suspended after traffic camera law

August 18th, 2016 by Emmett Gienapp in Local Regional News

Staff photo by Alex Washburn/Chattanooga Times Free Press - November 19, 2011.Bruce Johnson talks about the rules of driving through a roundabout while teaching a Driver's Education class at Hixon's Old Middle School on Saturday. The City's Driver Education program has been around two years and nearly 900 teens have graduated from it thus far.

Photo by Alex Washburn /Times Free Press.

Staff photo by Alex Washburn/Chattanooga Times Free Press - November 19, 2011. Bruce Johnson talks about the rules of driving through a roundabout while teaching a Driver's Education class at Hixon's Old Middle School on Saturday. The City's Driver Education program has been around two years and nearly 900 teens have graduated from it thus far.

Staff photo by Alex Washburn/Chattanooga Times Free Press...

Photo by Alex Washburn /Times Free Press.

Thanks to a law passed by the Tennessee Legislature, fledgling Chattanooga drivers will have to go back to building their driving skills under the watchful eyes of Mom or Dad.

The Chattanooga Department of Transportation announced Wednesday that no new courses will be offered in the city's drivers education program as a result of a loss of revenue that had been generated by unmanned speed enforcement cameras, according to a news release.

Money generated by the cameras was used to fund the program, but a state law enacted earlier this year prohibits the use of most of those cameras throughout Tennessee, leading to the program's suspension.

"Since its inception in November 2009, close to 3,000 young Chattanoogans have successfully completed the professional defensive driving curriculum and multimodal instruction provided by the City of Chattanooga's Drivers Education Program," the release stated.

One of the bills listed in the release as a cause of the move was sponsored by Sen. Todd Gardenhire, D-Chattanooga, and cited concerns about the legitimacy of unmanned cameras.

The bill argued, among other things, that "the right to face your accuser in court and cross examine witnesses is guaranteed by the United States Bill of Rights, and traffic enforcement cameras deny Tennesseans this right, because the accuser is a machine."

Kyle Miller, a spokesman for the Chattanooga Police Department, directed questions about the reasons behind discontinuing the cameras to state legislators, but did say his department believes the cameras deter traffic violations.

"It is unclear at this time to what degree the bill will potentially limit our public safety capabilities or increase workload on officers," he said. "But what we do know is removing these cameras does not make our streets safer."

The driver's education program offered four, four-day courses this summer, according to information from the program's website. Students between the ages of 15 and 22 sat in class from 9 a.m. to 4:45 pm.

To encourage enrollment, the city previously extended a $50 discount on the enrollment fee of $200 to lower-income families in order "to ensure all families have access to life-saving drivers education at an affordable price."

The website also stated, "Because a disproportionately high number of crashes involve drivers under the age of 25, it is crucial that these young drivers are given every opportunity to be instructed in uniform, proven, defensive driving techniques."

Contact staff writer Emmett Gienapp at egienapp@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6731. Follow on Twitter @emmettgienapp.


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