In the context of a state budget, even a depressed and depleted one like Georgia’s, $30-$40 million isn’t really all that much. In contexts that involve real people and real money (as opposed to the Monopoly money politicians sometimes act as though they’re tossing around), it’s huge.
Think about how many first-rate teachers could have been hired, how many PeachCare children’s health plans it could have bought — or, in this instance, how many lives it might have saved.
Because this isn’t about what that money could have done, but what it should have done. What it was supposed to do was fund driver education courses in Georgia high schools.
Joshua’s Law is named for Joshua Brown, a Cartersville teen killed in a car wreck in 2003. Since the law went into effect two years later, a special fee tacked onto traffic fines has collected about $57 million.
According to a state audit, only about $8 million of that money has been spent on driver training, not one penny of it since 2009. The rest has been used to fill state budget holes.
The diversion of that money is completely legal and utterly unconscionable.
Those who consider driver education an expendable luxury (or, God forbid, “entitlement”) are urged to take their cars out of their driveways and their lives in their hands, and get an up-close reminder of the thrills constantly available on our public rights-of-way.
Are bad drivers all young people? Of course not; the well-trained ones are often among the best. And some drivers, regardless of age or experience, are so irresponsible and/or inept as to be immune to instruction. But there are plenty who would be far less a threat, to themselves and everybody else on the road, if they’d just been taught better.
It’s infuriating, given that only 147 of the state’s more than 400 high schools have driver education courses, and almost a third of the state’s 159 counties have no driver education program at all.
Since Joshua’s Law was enacted, teen auto fatalities in Georgia have been reduced by half. What other priorities for the rest of that $57 million can lawmakers justify in that context?
— Online: www.ledger-enquirer.com