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SRO puts teens in the driver’s seat

As if life isn’t busy enough for Sunnyside Police Officer Sam Ramos, besides his work as a school resource officer he also helps teach classes at Nuestra Casa and this year began offering driving instruction at Integrity Driving School in Sunnyside.

Ramos went to the police academy with former Sunnyside officer Shane Mortensen, who operates the driving school.

When asked to help out as a driving instructor, Ramos agreed. He noted the experience has a benefit to his regular work as an SRO as students are able to see him in another light.

“Having the kids see me in a different environment is one of the reasons I did it,” he says of offering driver training courses.

Since completing a driver training certification course, Ramos figures he has trained somewhere between 150 to 200 students.

Ramos, in his 18th year with the Sunnyside Police Department, isn’t a stranger to providing driving instruction. Since 2004 or so he has provided training courses in the department for operating emergency vehicles.

It might be because they already know him, or the fact he is out of uniform, but Ramos says his students haven’t been nervous about learning behind the wheel with a police officer at their side.

Looking ahead, Ramos plans on teaching not only teens at the driving school, but is this summer arranging a Spanish-language driving course geared towards adults.

“We’re trying to educate people to slow down, give yourself extra time to get where you’re going,” Ramos says. He notes the most common issues are motorists not obeying stop signs, not wearing seat belts and speeding.

A driver training course, then, is hopefully a way to not only help students become licensed drivers, but to become safe drivers.

Sometimes that process can be stressful for student and teacher. The student driver cars operated by Integrity offer a brake pedal on the passenger side so the teacher can take control.

That’s not the case when students take their driving test with Ramos in their own car. “The biggest challenge is not having a brake pedal on my side,” he laughs.

On a serious note, though, he says teaching others to drive is rewarding.

“I see the confidence in them from their first drive to their last,” Ramos says of the course, which features six accompanied student drives. “I can see their confidence level building up, they’re practicing at being safe.”

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