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Sunnyside traffic school proving to be a success

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This past Saturday Sunnyside's traffic school was in session. It has been in operation for a year this month.

Sunnyside's traffic school celebrates its first anniversary this month and its purpose is to educate drivers who have received infractions.

Edica Esqueda teaches students attending traffic school the first Saturday of each month. She began working with the Sunnyside Police Department in the fall of 2006 and said at that time she and the administration devised a list of goals.

Included among the goals on the list was a traffic school for those who commit minor traffic infractions, such as failure to wear a safety belt.

"The school is modeled after others around the state," said Esqueda, stating Chief Ed Radder, Deputy Chief Phil Schenk and Judge Steven Michels were involved in the decision-making process.

After coming up with plans for the traffic school, the administrators proposed the idea to city council and met with approval.

Esqueda said the school is subject to review and as each review takes place, the program is subject to revisions and improvements.

Getting the program started involved a lengthy process, according to Esqueda. She said it took six months to receive the videos used in the class. The police department also needed to schedule officers to speak with the students.

It worked out that an officer on duty the day of traffic school would speak to the students and answer questions.

Esqueda said the school benefits students in that fines issued by the court are removed. But, traffic school is not a free option. Those who are referred by the judge or who have made a request to take traffic school pay $100 per infraction to attend. The students must also apply for traffic school.

Esqueda said students take a driving exam at the beginning of the class to measure whether or not the individuals understand the laws "...especially since there are some who haven't taken the test in a while."

The videos shown to those at Sunnyside's traffic school were filmed by the Washington State Traffic Safety Commission. The videos cover topics like seat belt safety, speeding, drinking and driving, distracted and drowsing driving and other safety topics important to staying alive when behind the wheel.

Esqueda said those who attend traffic school include drivers who have been cited for speeding and failure to yield the right of way. If a person who has received a citation for no valid operator's license or liability insurance obtains a license or insurance within 60 days they can be allowed to attend traffic school. Persons driving while license suspended third degree might be referred by the judge.

She also noted traffic violators can only take the class once every 18 months.

Without the partnership between the court and the police department, Esqueda said the school would not be possible.

"We have received several positive evaluations from the students," she shared, stating many of the students have expressed a need for similar instructional materials in driver's education classes.

Data hasn't been collected to show if the approximately 150 students who have participated in the traffic school are keeping their driving records clean. Esqueda said it would be interesting information to obtain, however.

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