Meadville Tribune

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April 9, 2014

Sheriff: All participants are winners in countywide young driver skills competition

MEADVILLE — “All of you are winners in our eyes,” Crawford County Sheriff Nick Hoke told student participants of the county’s sixth annual Young Driver Skills Competition at New Beginnings Church of God Tuesday morning.

“We’re proud of the good driving skills you’ve already shown and encourage you to think about what you experienced (Tuesday),” he said.

After a brief car inspection, road knowledge test, perception test and low-speed driving course, three of the 21 students representing Crawford County’s seven high schools won scholarship money and the chance to enter the state competition at Camp Hill next month.

“I wasn’t really expecting it,” said Ron Kasper of Conneaut Area Senior High School, who won first place and $1,000. “It’s exciting.”

Kasper and second-place winner Chad Eisenhooth of Cochranton Junior-Senior High School announced plans to enter the state-level competition with Luke Basko, third-place winner from Saegertown Junior-Senior High School, serving as their alternate.

Second- and third-place prizes at the county level included $500 and $300, respectively. State competitors have the chance to win up to $5,000 in scholarship funding.

Eisenhooth also helped Cochranton High School win the team trophy for the second consecutive year.

“I didn’t think I performed that well, but I’m proud to bring home the town trophy,” Eisenhooth said. “That was my goal at first.”

“I had faith in them,” said Cochranton Police Chief Heather Beachy of Cochranton’s representatives. “I told them they had to make me proud and they did.”

Despite having pre-qualified for the event with a written exam and clean driving records, participating students found the competition challenging.

Most, if not all, agreed the driving course was the hardest part.

Students were required to weave provided vehicles around pylons, parallel park along a simulated curb, drive their right wheels through two tight rows of tennis balls and place both the front and rear bumpers as close to a line as possible.

“It was tricky,” Basko said. “But I’m happy I came out and did it. It was a good experience.”

“Driving takes all your concentration,” Hoke said. “The course may have been a little harder than they anticipated, but it gave them a good indicator of real driving in a safe format.”

Participants also practiced computer-simulated driving with a steering wheel and pedal console, which tested their focus through distractions and other means.

County and state driving competitions for young drivers are held jointly by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, Pennsylvania Motor Truck Association, the Erie Health Department’s Highway Safety Coordinator and area schools, agencies, law enforcement and business partners, according to PennDOT.

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