Driver's Edge teen training a must for all young drivers
Young adult drivers 15 to 20 years old may make up just 9 percent of the population but this group is involved in 15 percent of the fatal automobile accidents. According to latest figures from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, automobile accidents are the leading cause of death for this age group. There are several driver training programs but few are as timely and as accessible as a program sponsored by Bridgestone Tire Co. The free program is offered in select cities around the country so that teen drivers and their parents can get a grip on understanding the responsibility of driving a three-ton automobile. "Motor vehicle collisions kill more teens every year than drugs, guns and violent crimes combined, yet conventional driver's education in America continues to teach young drivers only the most basic of driving skills and then sends them out on the roads," said Jeff Payne, president and founder of Driver's Edge. "To help make the roads safer and to better educate these young drivers, we need to take their training to the next level - use a different approach - and that's what Driver's Edge is about." The Driver's Edge program is taught by professional racecar drivers, which removes the geek factor many kids attach to driver training. The program is free to all permitted or licensed drivers 15 to 21 years of age. Teaching not only the proper manner with which to operate a motor vehicle the program also directs attention to proper vehicle control in emergency conditions, which might be encountered in the real world.Behind the wheel exercises include maintaining vehicle control during an evasive lane change and panic-braking, including the feel of antilock brake systems. Of course, kids like the active sessions but it is interesting to see the awareness brought to light by the entire program. Written tests are given to measure students' driving knowledge and awareness before and after completing the course. In this way, both student participants and parents (who must attend with their children) see the practical as well as the fun side to learning proper driving skills. In fact, most parents are absolutely astonished by what they and their kids learn in just four hours of training. Other factors covered during the class are interaction with local law enforcement. This means understanding the safety factors involved with impaired driving and the importance of safety belts. It is one of the factors I see most prevalent with young drivers, especially young girls. During the times I hold presentations at local schools on vehicle safety, I get a gamut of excuses, running from "I have airbags, so I don't need to buckle up," to "It will wrinkle my blouse." But when kids understand why they are being told to do something with greater clarity, they are more apt to follow through and apply peer pressure to their friends to do it as well. For the money (since this program is free that's a safe bet), Driver's Edge driver training is one of the best things going to help teach driver skills. I give Bridgestone Firestone North America Tire Co. a tip of my hat for the worthwhile program. I hope the relationship goes on for many years and I also wish that our legislators would finally get up off their duffs and take this under their wing and make it a reality across the nation. That's a challenge I wish some legislator would take. Dare you!
Ron Moorhead, a nationally syndicated automotive columnist, can be reached at [email protected]