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Pedal cars aid driver's education (w/video)

By BY CAROLINA ASTRAIN - CASTRAIN@VICAD.COM
July 2, 2014 at 2:02 a.m.
Updated July 3, 2014 at 2:03 a.m.

TOP: Tina Garner, owner/teacher, right, explains using the impairment goggles on the course at the driver education classes with Victoria Educational Associates in Victoria. The goggles simulate being on drugs, drunk and fatigued.

For more information

To learn more about the Victoria Educational Associates, go to victoriaea.com.

Just after pushing the send button on a text message, K'liyah Cunningham slowly drove around the bright orange traffic cones.

"It was horrible," K'liyah, 16, said. "I couldn't focus on where I was going."

The Victoria West High School junior was at the Victoria Educational Associates driving school with about 30 other students eager to earn their licenses.

"I'm a little nervous because people are crazy," K'liyah said. "Texting and driving is really bad among my age group."

The Victoria Educational Associates, which was recently purchased by longtime teacher Tina Garner, hosted the activity day Wednesday to give its students an idea of how it feels to drive while intoxicated, under the influence of drugs or to be fatigued.

Garner purchased the school from the previous owner, Johnny Sciacca, in March, she said.

"What I've been passionate about is now mine," Garner said, who has taught there for 12 years. "I would have never, ever thought that I would become a small-business owner."

The school now offers in-car driving instruction and is in need of additional in-car instructors. Training expenses for the additional instructor would be covered by the driving school, Garner said.

New to the program this summer are pedal cars, which students can use while wearing drunken driving goggles or text while steering.

"I just want it to be fun and interactive," Garner said. "Something different that will stick with them better."

K'liyah said at first she considered taking driver's education online but opted to invest more in a face-to-face program.

"I feel like if we were doing it online, I wouldn't be learning," K'liyah said. "An automated voice isn't going to help me at all."

For Justin McKnight, a Van Vleck High School student, getting a driver's license means being able to achieve a stronger sense of independence.

"Driving means I'll be able to depend on myself if I need to go somewhere or head to work," Justin, 15, said. "I'll probably start asking around for ranch work once I get my license."

Once he had the drunken driving goggles strapped around his eyes, Justin took a wobbly step back.

"They feel weird," Justin said. "They completely mess up your perception of depth."

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