The Delaware County Juvenile Court is now offering virtual driving assessments to gauge a juvenile’s critical crash avoidance skills.
The assessment is part of a program from Diagnostic Driving, Inc., a Philadelphia-based tech company, and it scores drivers on eight categories: speed management, road positioning, gap selection, blind spot management, hazard anticipation and response, attention maintenance, communication and right of way, and vehicle control.
Delaware County Juvenile and Probate Court Judge David Hejmanowski said the program fits in with other assessment tools currently used by the court.
“We have long utilized proven assessment tools for mental health, drug and alcohol, and myriad other issues in delinquency matters,” Hejmanowski said. “But even though one in five teens will be involved in a police reported crash within a year of getting their license, we have never had a proven program to help us assess the skills of teen drivers. It is beyond time that we take advantage of this pivotal tool.”
Hejmanowski said the program was scheduled to be part of a rollout with the Ohio Department of Public Safety, and the assessments were supposed to be offered at driving schools and boards of motor vehicles, but the pandemic forced the plans to change.
Originally, the tool was going to only be used for juveniles in court for a traffic case, but after speaking to people about the program, Hejmanowski said more and more people wanted their kids who weren’t involved in court to take the assessment.
“It became very clear that I’m not the only parent who worries about their teenager driving. Obviously, that’s a fairly common thing,” Hejmanowski said. “Here is an opportunity to really assess not just driving but individual areas within somebody’s driving as to what their strong suits are and what areas need improvement.”
The assessment tool is now set up in a conference room in the lobby of the Delaware County Juvenile Court, located in the Rutherford B. Hayes Administrative Building. The tool is available to anyone.
Any child or parent may contact the court at 740-833-2600 to set up an appointment. A report outlining areas of success and places where improvement is needed will be emailed to parents after the assessment.
“I think it’s best that it be either young, licensed drivers, or those who are well into their driver’s ed and supervised driving,” Hejmanowski said. “In either case, it would be assessing their skills after having spent some time on the roadway and behind the wheel.”
Hejmanowski said he hopes the tool can help make the roads safer for teens.
“I’ve been practicing law in this county for 21 years now, and we’ve had one calendar year we got through without a teenager being killed in a motor vehicle crash in the county,” he said. “We tend to overlook teen driver safety because it’s almost become an accepted risk. We accept that kids are going to drive, and we accept that driving is dangerous, and so we almost societally have come to just accept that there’s some cost to that. But there doesn’t need to be.”
Hejmanowski added this is a step that can be taken to improve safety.
“We don’t have to accept that cost,” he said. “We can do more to try and make sure our driver training is better to try and make sure our kids are better drivers when they get on the road. As the parent of a recently licensed 16-year-old, I’m certainly feeling that in a personal way.”
Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.