October 2, 2014

Report: Teens who skip driver’s ed more likely to have crashes, convictions

A new study finds young people who don’t take driver’s education courses are more likely to be involved in collisions and they’re much more likely to get ticketed and be found guilty of traffic law violations.

Gail Weinholzer, spokeswoman for AAA-Nebraska, says vehicle crashes remain the leading cause of death for teenagers, both in Nebraska and nationwide.

“Children under the age of 18 who do not participate in a driver’s education class are more likely, not only to be in crashes, but to receive convictions,” Weinholzer says. “We’ve got 30 states across the country that require driver’s education in some form and 20 states that do not.”

Nebraska is among the states where driver’s ed is -not- required. Some school districts offer it as a regular course, while other districts direct students to use a private, professional driver’s training company.

“They still have to pass a knowledge test and a behind-the-wheel test but how they acquire that information, that knowledge, that skill base is entirely up to the family,” Weinholzer says. “They can certainly choose to put their child through a driver education course or perhaps parents do it themselves.”

The motor club report found students who took driver’s education courses saw a reduction in crashes by 4.3% and a drop in convictions by nearly 40%. It also found that teens who completed driver’s ed scored higher on the driving exam and demonstrated better knowledge over their peers who had no formal training.


University of Nebraska enrollment tops 51,000

Enrollment at the four campuses of the University of Nebraska has topped 51,000, the largest student body since 1993.

The university today released the enrollment numbers for the four campuses as well as at the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture in Curtis as 51,215. That is a one percent increase over last year.

The Lincoln campus led the way with a 2.3% enrollment increase, pushing just past 25,000 students. The University of Nebraska at Omaha held steady at 15,227 students. The Kearney campus saw a 2.1% increase, pushing its enrollment to 6,902. The University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha nudged up a bit; a .4% increase to 3,696. The Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture saw a big jump; up 28% to a total of 384 students.

Enrollment of freshmen rose 2.2%. Overall undergraduate enrollment grew .9%. The number of graduate students also rose, according to the university.

UNL freshman found dead in fraternity house

A freshman at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln has died.

The university reports 18-year-old Clayton Real died in his room at the FarmHouse Fraternity.

Foul play is not suspected. Real was diabetic. Drinking off campus might have contributed to his death.

Real, an Agricultural Economics major from Grafton, won a scholarship to UNL from his local chapter of the Nebraska Cattlemen’s Association.

Jane Monnich, KLIN, contributed to this piece.

Doctor: Don’t crack your back with an overpacked backpack

With schools back in session across Nebraska there’s a warning about aches and pains from the misuse of backpacks. The weight really adds up considering text books, laptops, notebooks, cell phones and other items.

Pain specialist Dr. Douglas Keehn says the kids may not consider it a “cool” look, but they need to use both straps to better distribute the weight. Injuries are on the rise, according to a report from the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

“They estimate that there has been a 300% increase in the number of backpack injuries over the last 17 years,” Dr. Keehn says. “Last year alone, 14,000 people saught medical care for backpack-related injuries.” Five-thousand of those went to the ER because of their injuries.

Dr. Keehn says it’s important to make sure the backpack is not too big or too small for the child’s frame, and be cognizant of what’s in it. Those with cute patterns, non-traditional straps or other superficial features might not be the right fit, according to Keehn.

“Messenger bags are also very popular, they’re great fashion items,” he says, “but once again, they’re probably not great for doing things like carrying your textbooks simply because you can’t really distribute the weight that you would be typically carrying.”

For example, soft athletic bags with thin rope straps, which are fine for carrying a pair of shorts and a light t-shirt to the gym, are not appropriate for heavy text books and laptops.

Keehn says the weight of the fully-loaded backpack should not be more than 10 to 15% of the student’s total body weight.

“How do you find the right backpack and fit it appropriately and how do you load it appropriately,” he says. “By doing those things, it makes a lot of sense that we would probably be able to reduce the number of backpack-related injuries we have each year.”

He offers a few tips: adjust the straps, both of which should be wide and padded over the shoulders, pack properly to distribute the weight, use both straps, lift with the knees, and don’t pack what you don’t need.

Nebraska students score well on standardized tests


State Education Commissioner Matt Blomstedt speaks with reporters. Dir. of Statewide Assessment, Valorie Foy, is to his right

State Education Commissioner Matt Blomstedt speaks with reporters. Dir. of Statewide Assessment, Valorie Foy, is to his right

State education officials say nearly three in every four Nebraska public school students met state reading, math, and science standards.

The 2014 state test results disclose 77% of the Nebraska students met or exceeded state standards on the reading test; 72% in science and 71% in math.

State Education Commissioner Matt Blomstedt says education officials have seen progress over the years, but worry scores may have hit a plateau.

“When we do hit plateaus, I think it’s going to be incumbent on us to look at why we hit that level and what it is really going to take to make a difference,” Blomstedt tells reporters during a news conference at the state education offices in Lincoln.

Blomstedt says school must find ways to engage students. He also says early childhood education can have an impact throughout the educational career of a student.

Only writing scores from 4th Graders have been released, with 69% of the students meeting or exceeding state standards. A technical glitch in the online writing test administered to the higher grades prevented the state from releases more test results.

Blomstedt says educators must guard against being satisfied.

“I look at the numbers and go, ‘What can we do to make a difference in our reading scores if we are plateauing?’” Blomstedt says.

Blomstedt says educators must find ways to engage students and the state must invest in the things that really matter in teaching students.

A breakdown of the test results by district and school building is available by clicking here.