Vehicles inspected at Big Walnut High School

Vehicles inspected at Big Walnut High School

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By Gary Budzak -

High school students in Delaware County are receiving free lunches and free one-year AAA memberships, all for getting their vehicle inspected — for free.

On a cloudy Tuesday during lunchtime between periods of state testing, Big Walnut High School student commuters drove their vehicles from the parking lots around to the front entrance, where three teams of inspectors checked out their vehicles, calling out whether items checked out OK to student volunteers marking up an inspection sheet.

The inspectors examined each vehicle’s battery and lights, fluid levels, belt and hose wear, tire treads, windshield and mirrors, and whether the horn and wiper blades work. They also checked to see if the student had an emergency kit, which “may include: flashlight, first aid kit, cell phone charger, roadside flare, basic tool kit, bottled water, and jumper cables.”

These items were either marked as “OK” (a green box on the inspection sheet), “may require attention” (yellow) or “requires immediate attention” (red). A copy of the sheet was also mailed home to the student’s parents.

It was a learning experience for some — as in learning where the hood latch was for their vehicle.

“We do 24 of these events a year, this year with a special emphasis on Delaware County,” said Central Ohio AAA spokeswoman Kimberly Schwind. She said there were 44 vehicles checked at Big Walnut on Tuesday, and 40 of them had at least one fault.

“This is representative of what we see at schools throughout Ohio, which is scary,” Schwind wrote in an email following the event.

AAA is partnering with the SAFE Teen Driver Safety Task Force in Delaware County at the events. Teen driver safety events took place recently at Olentangy Orange (April 12); Buckeye Valley (April 16); and Olentangy Berlin (April 22); with a safe driving talk given at Olentangy Liberty health classes on May 14.

The events are done because car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens, especially in the spring and summer. According to AAA, in 2017, teens made up 5% of licensed drivers, but had 29% of the crashes. While inexperience or recklessness may account for much of the crashes, it should also be pointed out that many teens also get older, less-reliable hand-me-downs as their first vehicle.

As a result of the safety inspections, more than 87% of the 1,367 cars checked out at Ohio high schools last year had at least one item that required attention. The most common problems were with the lights and vehicle fluids.

Reducing young driver crashes

Maintaining vehicles properly and modernizing the licensing system for young drivers has been shown effective in reducing crashes involving teens. Ohio House Bill 106, co-sponsored by representatives Gary Scherer (R) and Michael Sheehy (D), would lengthen temporary permits from 6 to 12 months and require adult supervision for driving after 10 p.m. (instead of midnight) for 6 months. AAA, as well as insurance companies, hospital and safety advocates, supports the bill. For more information, visit