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MDT, OPI Awarded Funds For Teen Driver Training In Tribal Communities

Thanks to a grant from the Governors Highway Safety Association and Ford Motor Company Fund, Native American teens in Montana will have more access to hands-on driver training.

The Montana Department of Transportation and the Office of Public Instruction partnered for the grant that focuses on advancing traffic safety for teens in underserved areas. Many of the tribal youth in Montana have no opportunities for formal driver education training.

“Young drivers are the most at risk on our roads,” said Larry Flynn, MDT interim director. “Improving access to driver education programs is an important step to changing this.”

Over the last five years, Montana drivers under 21 have represented 11 percent of all traffic fatalities (Fatality Analysis Reporting System data), while representing only 6 percent of the licensed drivers in the state (Montana Motor Vehicle Division data).

The grant will be used for hands-on driver training workshops through OPI’s Montana Drive and will be specific to Native American youth.

“This partnership focuses on protecting our most precious resources, our children,” said Superintendent Elsie Arntzen. “According to the 2023 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, nearly 30 percent of our high school aged Tribal students report using their phones while driving. The grant increases safety for our students and offers scholarships to teachers to become driver education instructors.”

The grant provides for five scholarships for teachers in Native American communities to become driver education instructors. This will help address a shortage of driving instructors in tribal areas and ensure the longterm viability of the program.

Since 2006, MDT has implemented Montana’s Safe on All Roads program for tribal traffic safety. Through this program, each tribal community employs their own coordinator with funding through MDT’s highway traffic safety program to educate community members on traffic safety issues.

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