MTHS’ driving program wins support

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MIDDLE TOWNSHIP – Sarah Zarfati, 16, planned to do behind-the-wheel driving with a high school driving instructor this week.

The Cape May Court House teen already passed the special learner's permit test administrated at Middle Township High School earlier this school year.

The state requires students with special learner's permits to complete six hours in behind-the-wheel training. Middle Township High School students practice driving at the school parking lot, in Avalon and Stone Harbor, on the Garden State Parkway and routes 9 and 47.

Zarfati and other sophomores took a driver’s education course that lasted about three months at the high school.

She went into the class thinking she knew everything about driving. She walked away realizing she didn’t, she said.

“There’s just a further extent to it,” Zarfati said.

She said she didn’t know about the right-of-way, which means yielding to traffic and stopping for pedestrians.

“I expected to know everything already,” Zarfati said.

Without the driver’s education class, she said wouldn’t have passed the permit test.

State Farm also saw the benefit of Middle Township’s driver’s education program, recently announcing that the district would receive a $2,500 Celebrate My Drive grant.

High school Principal Rich Falletta said he hopes the grant will be used for speakers and presentations on safe driving. Driving simulation could come to the district in the fall, he said.

The check is expected to be presented Jan. 18.

About 200 students were enrolled in the high school’s driver’s education program this school year, and teacher Matt Wolf said he hopes the grant will help bring awareness to distracted driving, such as texting, which officials say can be dangerous.

Students participated in the course September through November, offered as part of the yearlong health class.

In the classroom, students get some hands-on lessons, like going through an obstacle course while texting, Wolf said.

The driver’s education class also covers alcohol and drugs and their effects on driving, he said.

Tray Blake, 16, of Whitesboro, said he thought the driver’s education class would be difficult, and it was. Things did come easier in time, though, he said.

He said he learned about road signs, such as construction and speed limits, and drinking and driving penalties.

Blake figures he’ll tackle the behind-the-wheel training in the spring.

Those with a special learner’s permit must have driver in the front seat who is at least 21, has a New Jersey driver license and has a minimum of three years of driving experience.

At 17, students can get a probationary license after passing the road test and having six months of supervised driving. When they turn 18, students are eligible for a basic driver license.

The State Farm grant isn’t the only funding the school has received.

For three consecutive years, the district has been the recipient a $1,000 U Got Brains Champion Schools Program grant awarded for teen driving safety programs.

Middle Township High School students came up with the idea of transporting students from prom to the after prom party, which has been done the past two school years, Wolf said.

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