By COURTNEY CULEY
Capital News Service
LANSING –Michigan high schools have joined a driver safety program for teens that has successfully worked with parents and young drivers for six years.
In 2005, the Michigan Sheriffs’ Association established STOPPED, Sheriffs Telling Our Parents and Promoting Educated Driving. The program is expanding to schools across Michigan.
This summer, the Kent County Sheriff’s Department pushed hard for the STOPPED program to be integrated into schools, Sheriff Lawrence Stelma said.
Five Kent County schools will be participating in the program this year, Stelma said. The STOPPED sticker will be used as high school parking permits.
Northview High School Principal Mark Thomas sent the STOPPED sticker home to all student drivers, asking that the stickers appear on windshields.
The more information that can be shared between student and parent allows the district to be more effective, Thomas said.
In the STOPPED program, parents who register their child’s car will be informed whenever the car is pulled over, Michigan Sheriffs’ Association Executive Director Terrence Jungel said. The parent will be informed even if a ticket is not issued.
The goal is to enforce traffic rules and keep parents informed of their kid’s actions, Jungel said.
Northview has received no negative backlash, Thomas said. “I think (students) understand that it’s for their protection.”
The program will benefit the schools and help increase school security, Stelma said.
The STOPPED stickers are unique to each school, so it is easy to tell when a car from another district is in a place it doesn’t belong, he said.
“I trust that it will make things easier for schools and drivers,” Stelma said.
The program helps eliminate bad habits and bad choices made by youthful drivers, Stelma said. The ripple effect could help law enforcement and decrease the number of accidents.
“We’ll never be able to say, ‘That sticker saved a life,’ but common sense says it does,” Stelma said.
The STOPPED program was borrowed from a county in New York and now has become known nationwide, Jungel said.
Every Michigan county but Luce is involved in the program and cars are registered from six neighboring states, he said.
Jungel was hoping to have 1,500-2,000 vehicles involved in the program, he said. Today there are almost 16,000 vehicles involved.
Holt High School invites officers into the district to promote the STOPPED program.
“The Ingham County officers come to the school to discuss the options with the parents and then they decide,” said Holt High School Principal Brian Templin.
The school district is in favor of the program and provides the opportunity to local parents, Templin said.
Parents in the district using STOPPED seem to like it and like being able to keep tabs on their children, Templin said.
The program is funded by AAA and is free to parents. Jungel said. The Secretary of State recently endorsed the program and stocks brochures and information at all locations for parents and drivers.
When the program was created in 2005, the State Police Office of Highway Safety Planning favored the program and still does today, said Anne Readett, communications manager.
She said she was excited to see the program grow and believes bringing the program to schools will make more people aware and involved.
According to Jungel, teens account for 15 percent of all drivers but 23 percent of all accidents.
Readett called teen drivers inexperienced and risk takers. Because teen drivers have higher crash rates, the Office of Highway Safety and Planning has a great interest in them.
STOPPED is one more way to help remind people to be cautious and careful, Readett said.
All articles © 2011, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism. Nonmembers cannot reproduce CNS articles without written permission.
By COURTNEY CULEY