By Steven Herndon
Driving a car is the biggest privilege a teenager can enjoy. It is also one of the most dangerous activities a young driver can participate in. With a normal classroom setting, most young drivers are not taught the skills needed to properly react to sudden dangers on the road. These dangers include what to do when an accident is happening in front of them, how to react if they begin to lose control, and how close is too close when following a car down the road. The Tire Rack Street Survival teen driving school teaches drivers between the ages of 16-21 these skills and more. Unlike a normal driver education course teens would take at their high school, the goal of this course is to help young drivers achieve greater confidence while driving in simulated real world situations in a safe, controlled environment.
In the classroom, the students will be taught the basics of routine car maintenance, including how to check and maintain the proper tire pressure, what each icon on the dashboard means, how often to get an oil change, etc. After the lesson, students are brought to a car to participate in a hands-on demonstration of the concepts learned in class. Once the students have completed the classroom and demonstration portion, they are sent to their cars for the driving part of the class. There are four phases during the driving portion of the school. Phase one and two combine handling and braking exercises. During phase one, the student will practice avoiding unexpected obstacles in the road. This simulates a sudden stop in traffic on the highway, or needing to take evasive action to avoid hitting an object in the road. During phase two, the student will practice how to control a car during heavy braking, and learning how modern anti-lock braking systems (ABS) work. This exercise simulates a real world situation, like understanding how to avoid a little kid running into the street chasing a ball.
During phase three, students will be directed to a wet, slippery driver training skid pad. This exercise simulates having the car start to slide out while turning or from hydroplaning while driving in the rain. While the student is driving, the instructor will pull and release the hand brake to put the car into a slide. The student must then try regain control of their car and stop it from a slide. The skid pad exercise is most beneficial to drivers in rainy areas of the country as well as those that occasionally encounter ice and snow on the road.
The phase four exercise demonstrates the perils of following the car in front of you too closely. The objective of this exercise is to simulate a safe driving distance between cars. In this exercise, the instructor will drive in lane A, and the student will drive in lane B. The student is asked to maintain a safe distance from the instructor. At an unknown time, the instructor will hit the brakes hard. If the student isn’t able to stop the car before their front bumper passes the instructor’s back bumper, an accident would have just happened in the real world. If the student is able to stop before the front of their car reaches the back of the instructor’s car they have succeeded in maintaining a safe driving distance.
“Few people realize driving is one of the most dangerous things they do. A car at just 4 mph has more energy than a bullet. That’s a lot of responsibility” said Bill Wade, Tire Rack Street Survival National Program Manager. During the closing ceremony the students receive a certificate of completion. The graduating students are now more capable of reacting to unexpected driving situations. This training can be lifesaving for the student and others around them. Even though this course does not take place of normal drivers ed course, the $75.00 student fee looks like a bargain considering the enhanced skill set drivers take away from this course.