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Mandatory driver refresher training’s time has come

Recently a prominent local resident was telling me that she was recently stopped by a state trooper because she hadn’t turned on her headlights during a rainstorm. Although she was not ticketed, she admitted that she didn’t know it was a requirement to drive with full headlights in rain and asked me how long that law had been in effect.

Judging by the headline for this article, you may have already surmised where I’m going with this. Unfortunately, in New York state, there is no requirement for any refresher training once people have obtained their full driving license, even though several new Vehicle and Traffic Laws are implemented every year. Some apply only to a particular class of driver, but some apply to everyone driving in this state.

So, absent mandatory refresher courses, how do existing drivers become aware of changes in VTL? Some hear about new laws from relatives and friends, some from the various media outlets, some from social media, and then there are those that just don’t hear anything about it.

Some examples of new laws (within the past 10 to 15 years) include, in no particular order, headlights required with wipers, slow-down-move-over laws, treating an inoperable traffic signal as an all-way stop, back-seat child under 2 must be rear-facing, and use of electronic devices prohibited while driving, just to name a few.

So, if we don’t have to go to “class” periodically, just how are we, as drivers, supposed to be made aware of important VTL changes? How about mandatory periodic driver refresher training? Many drivers will resist this, as it would require time and money. They will resist because most drivers consider themselves as better-than-average drivers, so why do they need mandatory refresher training? But driving is a privilege, not a right, and this privilege requires us to know the applicable laws — all of them, not just some. So do drivers who don’t know they need headlights on in rain, fog or snow adversely impact other drivers? They certainly do.

If our state legislators finally decide at some point that mandatory refresher training should be implemented, it will be up to them to decide how to do it and who pays the associated costs. To me, refresher training every five years seems reasonable, and with technology at our fingertips it certainly seems reasonable to provide online training. This should also make the cost of the training reasonable. We all must get our vehicles inspected for safety annually at our expense (currently $21), and this takes at least close to an hour out of our day once a year, so we have a precedent in place for vehicle safety inspections that cost us about $100 and five hours of our time every five years.

So what if we could devise an online refresher course that would at a minimum review the new Vehicle and Traffic Laws that went into effect over the past five years? And what if this course could be completed online in, say, one to two hours at a cost of $100 or less every five years? Would this be a reasonable driver requirement for renewing our driving license? When you realize that over 1,000 people are killed in traffic crashes in New York state annually, isn’t it time to do something about learning our applicable traffic laws? What do you think?

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