Grant paves the way for giving Montana's tribal youth hands-on driver training

Posted at 11:30 AM, May 11, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-11 13:30:04-04

HELENA — The Montana Department of Transportation and the Montana Office of Public Instruction were awarded a $50,000 grant to enhance access to hands-on driver training for Montana's tribal youth. The grant, sponsored by the Ford Motor Company and the Governors Highway Safety Association, will fund driver training workshops conducted by OPI's Montana DRIVE program.

DRIVE, stands for Driver In-Vehicle Education. DRIVE is an advanced training held annually in Lewistown, Montana. The program provides participants with the opportunity to practice handling risky driving scenarios. This grant specifically aims to facilitate Native American youth attendance at DRIVE.

Dwight Nelson, OPI Director of Traffic Education, says, "It has always been on my heart to somehow give the Native American youth of Montana who might not be able to take a traffic education course in high school, the opportunity to learn and practice various behind the wheel techniques to keep themselves and all of us safe on the roads."

Montana DRIVE workshops have been held for 45 consecutive years. This will be the first-year specific days are dedicated to serving the tribal youth of Montana.

Nelson is hopeful that sustained grant funding will enable the designated week to continue benefiting Montana's tribal youth by providing essential behind-the-wheel training for an underserved population.

According to OPI's Youth Risk Behavioral Survey, over half of the teens in Montana report not always wearing a seatbelt when in a moving vehicle. Superintendent of Schools, Elsie Arntzen says, “Nearly 30% 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.”

 Since 2006, MDT has introduced the Safe on All Roads (SOAR) initiative in Montana, aimed at tribal traffic safety. Under this program, each tribal community appoints its coordinator, funded by MDT's highway traffic safety program, to educate members about traffic safety concerns.

 SOAR coordinators will work with Montana tribes to bring youth to DRIVE in Lewistown this July.

For more information or to register for the workshops, visit or contact Sheila Cozzie at (406) 444-7301.