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Program hopes to close driver's license gap for students in Kansas City, Kansas

Posted at 9:36 PM, Sep 28, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-28 23:17:41-04

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — The Kansas City, Kansas, Police Athletic League says free high school driver education instruction is not an option anymore in Kansas, after it was removed for budgetary reasons in 1990.

Now, the PAL says these barriers are causing issues and the program is trying to eliminate them.

KCK Ofc. Joe Reyes knows learning to drive or teaching teenagers how to drive isn’t easy, but it is important.

The PAL surveyed hundreds of kids about their driving habits.

“Forty-precent of the kids we surveyed were driving currently without a license, driving to work, driving to school, the store, taking their siblings to school,” said Matt Tomasic, director of the KCK PAL.

Results of the survey between urban and suburban high school students in Kansas City, Kansas, from the Police Athletic League can be read below:

KCK urban high schools KCK suburban high schools
511 responses356 responses
23% do not have a licensed driver in their home100% have a licensed driver in their home
75% do not have a license73% have a license
40% drive without a license or permit37% drive without a license or permit
72% without a license, don’t know how to obtain one23% without a license don’t know the process to obtain one
42% without a license have no one to teach them16% without a license have no one to team them
21% of drivers are self-taught4% of driers are self-taught
6% attended a formal driving course31% attended a formal driving course

According to Tomasic, the results from the survey are a reminder of the barriers that come with trying to get a license.

This includes the cost, having a car, the time of a parent and knowing how to apply.

The PAL wanted to make that easier and opened a commercial driving school.

In nearly one year, the program has been able to license more than 88 kids.

“If you are at the bottom of the economic scale, it’s really difficult to get a driver’s license,” Tomasic said.

According to Tomasic, something as simple as a lack of license could lead kids down a bad road.

“The kids are proud, but I’ll tell you this — we're prouder because we really feel this is a program that is fundamentally changing the direction of kids’ lives,” he said.

In 2021, there were more than 1,000 tickets for unlicensed drivers under the age of 25 in KCK.

Tomasic said that if a student were to get a ticket, a tow or couldn’t pay a fine, it could lead to a warrant.

“If you’re already in the hole at 16, I got warrants, I got a suspended license, it's hard to climb out of that hole,” Reyes said.

This program teaches them the rules of the road, what to do if you’re pulled over, oil changes, insurance and brake lights.

“This is another opportunity for us at the PAL to make relationships with kids in the community and their parents and help them be successful,” Tomasic said.

The program is free, but kids have to do 30 hours of community service in exchange.

You can help sponsor kids who go through driving school by donating to KCK PAL.