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Here’s how Dawson County deputies are helping area teens drive safely this summer
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One student practices maneuvering a cone course during one of DCSO's recent teen driver's program classes at Dawson County High School. Photo by Lt. Brad Hardman.

While summer can be filled with many opportunities for recreation, the season can also be a dangerous time of year for young drivers, according to a recent press release from AAA—the Auto Club Group.

This story continues below.

Nationally and in Georgia, almost a third of fatal crashes involving teens occur during the “100 Deadliest Days” that spans from Memorial Day to Labor Day. And for every mile driven, new drivers ages 16-17 are three times more likely to be involved in a deadly crash compared to adults, the press release stated. 

As Dawson County Sheriff’s Office Dep. Vic Gazaway sees it, education is key to protecting local teens on the road. 

Gazaway serves as one of Dawson County High School’s two resource officers. Throughout June, he and his DCSO colleagues have taught classes for a  teen driver program on the high school’s campus. 

DCHS Teen Driver Program

  • Who: Teens ages 15-17 that have their learner’s permit at the time of the class week.

  • What: Four-day, 30-hour driver classroom education course. Students must attend all classes to get a completion certificate, and the class is free to all who sign up. 

  • Where: Dawson County High School, located at 1665 Perimeter Road in Dawsonville. 

  • When: Remaining class weeks are July 10-13 and July 17-20. Class size is limited. 

  • For more details, please contact

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During each four-day class week so far, one of the biggest things he’s emphasized to teen drivers is to put down their cell phones and refrain from texting while driving, Gazaway said Thursday.

Distraction plays a role in nearly six out of ten teen crashes, the AAA press release stated. However, having other teens in the car can increase the risk of a fatal crash, especially if a young driver is being encouraged to speed or aggressively drive, the press release added. 

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One student looks as she backs up a golf cart during a cone practice course for DCSO’s teen driving program at Dawson County High School. Photo by Lt. Brad Hardman.

Just as measures like a seat belt can significantly reduce the risk of death or serious injury in a vehicle crash, so too can actions like refraining from alcohol and drugs before getting behind the wheel. 

Additionally, Gazaway pointed to the need for teens to know simple maintenance actions like checking oil and coolant levels or changing a tire, particularly with Dawson’s rural location. 

“We feel because of where we’re at, it’s imperative that they learn…with service being the way it is, you may not be able to reach your parents or AAA for assistance,” Gazaway said. 

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DCSO SRO and Sgt. Randy Mullis, right, gives a group of teens tips on under-the-hood maintenance for cars. Photo by Lt. Brad Hardman.

Gazaway called it “imperative for parents to be with teens” when they drive and to be involved with their learning process.

He advised breaking a teen’s driving practice into chunks and during those times, minimizing in-car distractions and pointing out road names and landmarks so young drivers can understand their locations in the event of an accident. 

Both Gazaway and advice from AAA recommended that parents or guardians allow teens to drive in various weather and road or traffic conditions. 

Starter routes for a teen could include a drive along Ga. 136 toward Tate or Gainesville or along Ga. 9 South before having them drive on Ga. 400 to Dahlonega or Cumming. 

“Let your kid get comfortable with their surroundings,” Gazaway said, later adding, “Have them familiarize themselves with roundabouts. We have a few roundabouts in Dawsonville.”

He also encouraged defensive driving and knowing the rules of the road, from using the right lane for slower speeds to moving over for emergency vehicles and staying away from big trucks when possible. 

“Understand that the person or people around you may not be as observant as you are, so you have to be very aware of all of your surroundings,” Gazaway added.