VERA: Empowering New Drivers To Protect Our Air

Monday, April 20, 2020 - 7:44pm

As of January 2020, there were just under 9 million vehicles registered in North Carolina.  These vehicles include the cars that are driven every day to school, work, the grocery store, the name it.  Vehicle emissions are one of the biggest sources of air pollution in North Carolina, and contribute to both particle pollution and ground level ozone.  These pollutants have a negative impact on human health, environmental health, visibility, tourism, and more, not to mention the contribution to climate change.  While governmental regulations make a big difference for air pollutant emissions, NC Division of Air Quality wanted to go further.  Thus, VERA was born. 

Vehicle Emissions Reduction Activities, affectionately and practically called VERA, is a drivers education program that was created by NC DAQ’s Air Awareness staff in 2018.  The program is an hour long presentation for drivers education classes that teaches students about our organizations mission and work, then takes a closer look at how driving choices can impact air quality.  Students learn about car choice, maintenance, and driving habits that can reduce their emissions.  As part of the program, the students use the EPA car comparison tool on to look at the impact, both environmental and economical, of different vehicles.  This tool helps them to understand the results of using different types of fuel, including hybrid and electric vehicles.  The program also teaches ways to maintain and drive any vehicle to maximize efficiency, since not everyone can buy the newest Tesla!  The students learn about how tire pressure, oil changes, speeding, and more can impact their efficiency and emissions.  At the end of the program, they get some items to take home, including a tire pressure gauge to help maintain their car. 

Over the last year, the VERA program has been expanded from the original two partner schools.  It is now established in eight schools around Wake County through the Jordan Driving School.  

“The VERA program has been a meaningful addition to the driver education classroom and I am hopeful that the collaboration will continue.  It is always beneficial for students to hear about experiences and content from a variety of sources especially in instances where there is such a wealth of information such as that in 30 hours of driver education. Encountering resources and current research about vehicle emissions, sustainable ways to reduce the harmful effects on the environment, along with some of the new vehicle technologies is an opportunity for all stake-holders to know better and do better.  Students also enjoy the handouts and branded items that allow them to learn even more!  Introducing and reinforcing voluntary ways we can all make a positive impact is always a worthwhile use of time.” 

-Angie Stephenson, Leesville High School 

"Our Driver Education students have loved having the VERA presentations. Learning not only about driving but learning to differentiate between using electric vehicles and gas powered vehicles has opened their eyes. Also, the presenters are always so pleasant."  

-Darryl Robinson, Panther Creek HS 

The intent for the program is to eventually provide it as a resource for drivers education teachers statewide.  So far, in the Triangle area, it has been well received by teachers and students alike! We hope to see an improvement in air quality by empowering young drivers to make positive daily changes.