When it comes to seats in drivers ed, teens find demand far outstrips supply

When it comes to seats in drivers ed, teens find demand far outstrips supply

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - For his 16th birthday, Logan Duck wanted a seat in his high school's drivers education class.

But he didn't get in that year. Or the year after. Each time he tried, he was told there was no more space.

"We would go the first day and we were told that the class was already full," said Duck's mother, Jennifer Stike.

Many 16- and 17-year-olds statewide face the same problem. Drivers education courses in public high schools are booked to the point where some students never get in.

"We are back about two classes right now just trying to catch up from the summer," Radford High School principal James Sunday said.

Radford holds one class a semester that's capped at 30 students each. That's all the school's two instructors can handle when it comes to the behind-the-wheel instruction each student must have.

"Just to divide the kids up you're looking at 60 kids to drive six hours a pop. That's about 360 hours they have to catch up on and they are limited to 17 hours a week after school to drive," Sunday said.

Drivers ed instructors are also teachers.

Kaiser High School's driving instructor Jamie Psak said it would help if the Department of Education had more instructors throughout the system, but it is a demanding job.

"It takes a lot of extra paperwork and hours away from our families and whatever other things that we do. It is a second job," she said.

Some schools put students on waiting lists. Some hold lotteries instead of registering students on a first-come, first-served basis.

The DOE said Roosevelt, Kaiser and Kealakehe high schools currently use a lottery system and others have used them in the past based on demand.

In high demand years, upwards of 70 students have applied for 35 available slots, and in low demand years, less than 15 have applied. Semester classes are consistently between 30 and 40 students per class.

Carol McNamee, of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, said drivers education courses are vital for young drivers. "I think it's important to have opportunities for those who want to take the course when they want to take it," she said.

State records show about 20,000 Hawaii teenagers had a drivers license. Sixteen years ago, it was about twice that number.

Sunday believes not being able to get into a drivers ed class contributes to the decline, though fewer teens are driving for a variety of other reasons, too.

As for Duck, who desperately wanted to get into that drivers ed class for his sweet 16, is now a senior at Konawaena High School. He's given up on getting into drivers ed. Instead, he plans to get his license when he turns 18 next month.

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