Save Our Teen Drivers

Advocating for driver's education changes. Educating the public on the problem. Finding a solution that saves lives.

Recap from yesterday’s driving school

Posted by lapearce on July 13, 2009

ABS stops can be scary for new drivers

ABS stops can be scary for new drivers

Yesterday we had a very good class. There were 12 students and they were a near even split of licensed and permitted drivers. We also had some good stories yesterday, here are some of them:

Shana was back for her second class! She took the course last year in a Land Rover LR3 that her mother intended to give to her. The car performed so poorly that her mom became increasingly worried about her daughter’s safety. I really took a liking to Shana and her mom during that class because I took pity on her mother. Here she is, buying a luxury SUV because she thought it was the safest option for her daughter, and the car showed that, while it may be high up with lots of airbags, it didn’t have the ability to avoid crashes. I let Shana and her mother come from a ride in my BMW X3 to show them the difference. She came back today in an X5 with her dad and was ecstatic to be back at the school and at how much better her new car handled and was able to avoid obstacles.

Francine had never used ABS brakes before. Even though her car was brand new, she was terrified that she may break it if she slammed on the brakes. I got in the passenger seat with her and tried to calm her down. We went down the course, the head instructor, Judy Ray, yelled “brake!” and Francine braked. Her hands flew off the steering wheel, her head flew down, her eyes closed and she screamed for a few seconds. The parents got a good laugh out of it. Then she looked up, looked at the parents laughing, looked at me, and flashed her infectious smile that made it impossible not to like her. I told her, “See, look. We stopped. And we’re still in one piece.” The next time through she stopped without any of the theatrics, and now, she doesn’t have to experience ABS braking in an emergency situation where her initial reaction could be dangerous. She told me, “If I felt that pumping of the brake pedal on the road, I might have taken my foot off.” A crash waiting to happen, now avoided.

Camron was friends with a passenger who was killed in a crash where speed and inexperience proved to be a deadly

A students friend who was killed in a crash

A student's friend who was killed in a crash

combination. A Mustang GT driving by 18-year-old Mark lost control at high speed through a winding road. It spun and hit a tree, which nearly cut the car in two, killing both Mark and his 17-year-old passenger Zach. Many times stories like this have a silver lining in that they shatter the invincibility of others and save others lives, I feel that one of those lives saved was Camron’s. Camron was a very typical young male driver. He came in his modified, 6-speed, MINI Cooper S, and at one point I heard him talking about his speeding tickets. Learning how just a little speed can make the difference between maintaing control and sliding was a valuable lesson to him, a lesson that Mark and Zach unfortunately learned the hard way.

Irena was the sweetest thing in the world. You could have called her a sterotypical blonde for sure, but under that sterotype was a real passion to learn. She wanted to learn where everything under the hood was and even wanted to know where to get oil if she was low! I was very impressed with her. She was also completely terrified of driving, however. She was 17 with her permit. She originally got her permit when she was 15 1/2 but her first attempt at driving traumatized her so that she wouldn’t get behind the wheel for another two years.

Irena’s mother put her daughter in the driver’s seat and was standing outside the car with the door open. She told Irena to give the car some gas. I think she thought the car was in park, but it was not. Irena floored the car, knocking her mother over and hitting a wall. Her mom, pinned beneath the car, started screaming at her to back up. Irena figured out how to put the car in reverse, but in her panic, couldn’t find the brake. The car was stopped when it hit a fire hydrant behind her. Her mom ended up with a broken leg, but the scars the crash left with Irena were far deeper. At the end of the day, however, she was really coming out of her shell and realizing that she could do this, she could drive.

Michelle was our most a-typical student. She was 28 years old driving a beautiful manual E46 M3. She had decided to take the class because she was going to become a border patrol agent. She knew that part of the program was a driving course and she also knew that most everyone there would be male. Her goal was to be able to beat, at least, all the other women, so that she could prove herself to the guys. I think meeting Judy, an ex-professional race car driver who has beaten plenty of men, was good for Michelle’s misgivings about the abilities of female drivers. She ended up doing very well, and I hope to see her at the track soon.

The class was great and there were a lot of lessons learned that would have likely resulted in crashes if they were learned on the road. Francine’s ABS experience is a good example of that. We also had a few students who had trouble modulating how much to turn the steering wheel to go where they wanted. Once they got the hand-eye coordination down they became much better drivers. We also do an exercise where the teens pretend they are picking up and then talking on a phone. The difference in their abilities without the phone and with the phone are so shocking, that the teens really get it. One said, “I have enough I’m trying to focus on without the phone. With the phone, it is impossible!”


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