BRIGHT FUTURE: Rules of the road

Published 12:01 am Thursday, June 21, 2012

LAUREN WOOD / THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Jazz Davis, 16, looks to her right before making a turn with driving instructor Gary Parnham Wednesday morning as part of Davis’ eight hours driving with an instructor before receiving her license.

By Mollie Beth Wallace

The Natchez Democrat

VIDALIA — Drivers in Concordia Parish should rest a little easier at night knowing their new drivers have been schooled in the rules of the road.

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Thanks to instructors like Gary Parnham Jr., students age 15 and up are learning to become safe drivers.

Parnham is employed by the Concordia Parish School Board to teach a drivers education course in accordance with Louisiana state law.

According to Louisiana state law, individuals age 15 to 16 applying for a driver’s license for the first time must provide proof documenting completion of the course, which includes 30 hours of classroom instruction and eight hours of behind-the-wheel instruction.

Parnham said he has been teaching the course for approximately six years, and usually most students struggle with the same issues.

Parking is a difficult task for most students to learn, Parnham said. But with enough practice, students will begin to feel more comfortable behind the wheel.

Shemeka Wilson, who will turn 16 on July 16, listened as Parnham explained how to turn the steering wheel when backing out of a parking spot.

In particular, Wilson said the course has taught her how to parallel park and make good use of the rearview mirror.

Another common mistake new drivers make involves stop signs, Parnham said.

Parnham reminded Wilson to stop behind the white line when approaching a stop sign.

LAUREN WOOD / THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Jordan Leonard, 17, scans the road before making a turn Wednesday morning during driving time with an instructor with the Louisiana Office of Motor Vehicles.

Once Wilson finished her lesson, Jazz Davis climbed into the drivers seat. Davis, who turned 16 June 22, said the course is important to young drivers because of their lack of knowledge and experience.

“I learned what the different signs mean,” Davis said. “I never knew what ‘yield’ meant.”

Since his students are of the cellular phone generation, Parnham said he tries to emphasize the law against texting and driving.

“They’re not supposed to be using their phones (in the car),” he said. “Not even in the backseat.”

Louisiana law prohibits any individual from texting while operating a motor vehicle and bans any person under 18 from any form of cellphone usage.

Davis said she feels strongly about abstaining from cell phone use in the car as well.

“They’ll just have to wait until I’m not driving,” she said.

The key to becoming a good driver is getting as much experience as possible, Parnham said. He said he would encourage parents to take time to give their children time behind the wheel once they acquire a learner’s permit.

Parnham teaches physical education at Vidalia High School during the school term.