THOMASVILLE -- Young drivers who receive a speeding ticket and face the music will get a break. So will their parents.

Thomas County Sheriff's Department officers developed a program geared to making teenage drivers aware of the errors of their ways.

"State law is so tough on drivers 16 to 21," said Capt. John Richards, sheriff's department chief of operations.

A driver -- 16 to 21 -- who receives a moving violation, or speeding ticket, and accumulates four or more points loses his or her driver's license for six months. Another citation would result in 12 months with no license.

Richards said points accumulate based on the number of miles per hour over the speed limit a young driver is traveling.

Many times, parents feel the hardship in their pocketbooks. They pay fines and increased vehicle insurance premiums and must provide transportation for their licenseless offspring.

If parents do not take disciplinary action for the offense, the young driver goes unscathed, Richards explained. "They don't understand the consequences of what they're doing," he added.

Beginning this month, the sheriff's department will offer a once-monthly, two-hour young driver awareness program.

Sheriff's department deputies issuing speeding tickets to young drivers will provide -- with the citation -- information about the program and the date of the next session. If the young driver attends the class, the speeding ticket will be reduced to a warning.

The program is only for first offenses and one time only. The program does not apply to tickets for driving under the influence, attempting to elude or reckless driving.

"It's more or less just for speeding violations," Richards explained.

The classes, which are free of charge, will be conducted at the Jail-Justice Center conference room. The instructor will be sheriff's department Sgt. Brad Lamons.

"I told him what I wanted, and he put together the program," Richards said.

Serious subjects will be addressed during the classes: Georgia law pertaining to teen-age drivers and responsibilities of young drivers while behind the wheel.

Also, Richards said, participants will view scenes of speeding young drivers being chased by law enforcement officers and the consequences -- including wrecks.

Class attendance could be part of a sentence. "We'll accommodate them," Richards said about Thomas County State and Juvenile courts. Judges of both courts have given the program their blessings.

Sheriff's department officials will not inform parents that their children have a speeding ticket and a chance to reduce it to a warning.

"That will be up to the driver," Richards said.

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