Capital News Service

of the Michigan State University School of Journalism

Driving schools might be required to teach energy efficiency

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By MEHAK BANSIL
Capital News Service

LANSING—Another bill in the saga of Michigan’s move toward a greener future targets driver’s education.

Schools would be required to teach students how to maximize fuel economy with proper driving and maintenance and how to choose fuel-efficient vehicles.

Rep. Dan Scripps, D-Leland, said he co-sponsored the bill because of an active interest in energy issues. He said it could help drivers minimize their environmental footprint while saving money on fuel.

“I drive a truck that gives me about 15 miles per gallon,” Scripps said. “I was really regretting it when the gas prices were high.”

Nancy Cain, AAA of Michigan public relations director, said to maximize fuel efficiency, drivers should avoid quick starts and stops, driving faster than 55 to 60 mph and idling.

Lee Alpern, head of Lee Driving School Inc. in West Bloomfield and Livonia, already teaches energy-efficient driving.

“Energy efficiency matters,” Alpern said. “Why shouldn’t we teach teenagers about energy efficiency when they’re in a learning mode?”

However, he said he will have to research exactly how to choose a fuel-efficient vehicle if the law passes.

Although some driver’s education teachers agree that teaching fuel-efficient driving is important, other experts say making it compulsory may not be a good idea.

“It’s unwise to dilute driver’s education with issues that are extraneous and unrelated,” said Ken Silfven, a communications officer for the Secretary of State. “We emphasize the driver’s responsibility behind the wheel.”

Paul Canjar of Academy Driving School Inc. in Lapeer said he doesn’t teach the specifics of fuel-efficiency right now, but feels it’s important and the government should take environmental driving into consideration.

“These kinds of things are completely relevant,” Canjar said. “It would be dumb not to watch out for better fuel economy when shopping around for a vehicle, especially when we’re thinking about saving the environment.”

Although the bill would mandate energy-efficient training, safety must still come first, according to Canjar. If there were a situation in which an action would be more energy efficient but less safe, the safer option would be taught.

“I read somewhere that rolling through stop signs makes for more energy-efficient driving,” Canjar said. “But I would never teach a student something which put their life and the lives of others in jeopardy.”
Rep. Bert Johnson, D-Highland Park, is the lead sponsor.

The bill is pending in the House Transportation Committee.

© 2009, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism. Not to be reproduced without permission.

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