Save Our Teen Drivers

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

Posts Tagged ‘driving school’

When you buy golf clubs you get golf lessons, right?

Posted by lapearce on March 4, 2010

Whether you are learning how to drive a ball or drive a car, lessons are important

I was talking to my friend tonight Jim tonight about getting some grants for the teen driving program I volunteer for, Driving Concepts Foundation. Jim is the executive director for another non profit I help out, Trails4All that builds and maintains trails in Southern California. As I was telling him about the program he told me how great it sounded and that he would love to help us try to find grants to keep the program going.

Jim was a race mechanic for many years and spent a good portion of his adult life around race cars and Baja 500 trucks. But he never drove one of these cars, so a few years ago he decided to take a driving school to improve his skills. He was telling me how beneficial the program was and how much he believes in car control courses for all drivers– especially new ones. He made a really good point, a point made to him by his instructor:

When you go out and buy a pair of golf clubs, what is the first thing you do? You get lessons. When you buy a tennis racquet to get tennis lessons. So why do we buy our teens new cars and not get them driving lessons?

To the parents who have children in sports think about the amount of time they spend at practice. We have our kids spend hours every week learning how to throw or catch a ball for a sport that they play on the weekend. Driving is something they will do every day of their lives, and unlike soccer, can lead to death if they aren’t well prepared for it. If you can afford to purchase a car for your child, to pay for the DMV “training”, to insure the car, buy tires for the car, maintain the car then you can afford a car control course for your new driver. These classes teach valuable skills that can make all the difference in an emergency. So instead of automatically thinking “I can’t afford to send my teen to a driving school” instead think “Can I afford NOT to?”


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How can parents find safe driving schools?

Posted by lapearce on November 19, 2009

An investigative report at WKYC in Ohio has unveiled some frightening facts at driving schools in and around Cleveland. Since 2006 45 schools have received violations that range from cars with frozen brake pedals to not enough books and instructors in the classroom. One mother, Susan Sigman, thought she put her 16-year-old daughter Lauren in good hands with the school she selected. Then, during an in-car driving lesson the brakes failed at 55 mph. The car was able to coast to a stop without hitting anything, but the situation could have been tragic.

Parents are often advised to take the time to investigate the driving school they chose. However, when the undercover reporter asked three of the schools with violations if they had any violations they all told him no. When he spoke to an owner of two of the schools he said, “Those are just words on paper”.¬† While the schools all fixed their violations, or were closed down, it is still disturbing that so many schools would have cars unfit to be on a road, or classrooms unsuitable for learning. One school was even caught giving diplomas to students for accomplishing only a fraction of the in-car requirement.

Parents are also advised to look at the cars and make sure they are well maintained. In a perfect world everyone would be able to look at a car and be able to tell if the brakes were in good shape, if the tires were worn, if the shocks were good, and if the belts under the hood needed replacing. But from my experience working with parents, many can’t do this. Parents need to learn because your child needs to learn how to do these things, but when investigating a driving school I suggest you bring someone with you who does know about these things. Try not to pay your mechanic to go with you, but if you have that friend that does some work on his car, ask him to tag along.

Parents are also told to research the company. The BBB is a good place to start, but not all problems are reported. One of the schools with violations has a B+ on BBB, and the BBB doesn’t report violations only complaints.When I googled the same school I could not find any indication that they had violations.

As for going to your state’s or county’s Web site to try and find violations, I have found that it is incredibly difficult to find this information online. If you google “Orange County driving school violations” all the results are for court ordered driving school to remove violations from your driving record. I also could not find the information on the State’s public safety page or the DMV page.

In Los Angeles, restaurants need to clearly display their health code rating on the front window of the establishment,

Restaurateur with clearly visible health code rating

so everyone going in knows if they have an A or a B or heavens forbid a C. There is a Web site where you can search your favorite restaurant and see how it does, and even what the infractions are. My favorite Vietnamese place has the habit of thawing meat in water that’s not running. But I still eat there, because I don’ t leave the water running when I thaw meat either. Restaurants are also checked far more frequently. In Ohio driving schools are inspected ever year with a full inspection that looks at cars every other year.

A lot more people die on the road every year than die of food poisoning, and yet when it comes to driving schools, establishments that have teenagers lives in their hands, it is near impossible to see how they rank.

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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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Free two day driving class in Pasco County Florida

Posted by lapearce on June 17, 2009

Florida is statistically not a good state to get your license in. Crash rates and fatality rates are high in the state comparatively, and if you are in the Tampa, St. Petersberg, Clearwater metropolitan area, like Trinity Florida is (or at least pretty close to it), you are in the most dangerous metro in the country for new drivers with over 41 fatal crashes for every 100,000 teens.

Pasco County Sheriff deputies know that there county is a dangerous one for new drivers. The county line, which ends north of Tampa, is the second most deadly county in Florida for new drivers. The Sheriff Department decided three years ago to try and turn those statistics around.

The two day program they offer, Teen Driver Challenge, is free to participants. The course features one day of in-class learning and a second day of in-car learning. The course is taught by sheriff deputies and they teach many of the things police officers teach to be safe on the road. Some area high schools require the first day of class to receive a parking permit on campus, but the second day is optional.

Katie Dabelstein and Chris Loguidice, students from Mitchell High School, came back the second day even though it wasn’t required. Both wanted to improve their driving skills and felt the program would do that. “It sounded pretty cool when they said it’s what the cops had to do,” Dabelstein said.

The program uses the teens own car, and teaches them handling, stopping, and avoidence skills that can mean the difference of life and death on the road. The program also teaches backing up, a cruital skill in a high school parking lot. The next program will be at River Ridge High School July 20-21. Register by calling Mary Hopkins at 813-929-1376.

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Recap from yesterday’s class

Posted by lapearce on June 8, 2009

Students Cars all in a Row

Students' Cars all in a Row

We had a small class yesterday. This is becoming the norm in a year where we already had to cancel two classes from lack of enrollment. It’s the economy. This time last year the class was full. It saddens me when parents put their pocketbook before the safety of their children. If a defensive driving class helps a teen avoid one crash it has already paid for itself a number of times over.

Despite the smaller group, it was a good group. The majority of the drivers this month had their permits, and two of the girls had just barely started driving. They didn’t know the fundamentals of turning the steering wheel, using the gas or brake, let alone what the car, or they, were capable of doing.

In our first time down the course with one of the new drivers she started out with the steering wheel turned a bit. She gave it a little bit of gas and the car went off to the side. She just froze with her foot on the gas and her eyes locked straight ahead. I grabbed the steering wheel and told her to brake, then talked her into bringing the car back around. Because we were in a big, empty parking lot with nothing around this common beginner mistake was no problem. If it weren’t for classes like this, however, she could have learned that lesson on a busy road. It frightens me that we send out permitted drivers with no experience out there to learn on the road with everyone else. They need a calm, controlled environment to learn in, not the hectic, uncontrolled road.

At the other end of the spectrum we had a more experienced teen who was at the class to reel in an ego that was out of control behind the wheel. She thought she was God’s gift to driving. This is just as dangerous as the permitted drivers who didn’t know the first thing about steering wheel control. She was still inexperienced, but she thought she was experienced. At the end of the day she said, “With every cone I hit my ego deflated a little”. Good, goal reached.

All of the drivers made huge leaps and bounds of improvement through the course of the day. A girl afraid to hit her brakes learned the importance of ABS. The girl who couldn’t turn her car learned how much to turn the steering wheel based on the turn ahead. And the cocky girl lost her attitude.

Honorable mention also goes to one of our permitted drivers, Matt, who mastered his mom’s GM Yukon with expert skill. He had the highest hill to climb of all of our students because of how difficult his SUV is to drive, but he went into the class with a level head and was stellar at listening to what the car was telling him and not over working the car. Still, seeing such a small boy in such a large vehicle, I can’t help but wonder why parents continue to put their children in these dangerous SUVs. His mom is asking herself that same question as well. Matt may get another car before he turns 16. A smaller, lower, easier to handle one.

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Defensive driving class reduces crashes 63%

Posted by lapearce on June 6, 2009

Teen driver learns car control

Teen driver learns car control

Those of us who teach defensive driving to teens know that the classes save lives and prevent crashes, but so many of the organizations doing research on teen driving focus so much on the effectiveness of graduated driving licenses, that they typically ignore the effectiveness of defensive driving/car control classes.

The benefits of classes over laws, in my opinion, is they don’t take years to be put into place, they don’t rely on enforcement, and you can never take education away from a person.

The Meridian Police Department of Mississippi has seven years of experience teaching defensive driving and car care to teens. The week-long courses are limited to 20 students and focus on teaching teens how to avoid emergencies on the road, as well as basic car care.

Since the course has started, the police department has seen a sixtythree percent reduction in crashes among teen drivers.

For comparison, graduated driver’s licenses reduce crashes by nineteen percent.

These classes work better than laws. There need to be more programs like this available to more teens, this is the best way to save lives!

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Up coming driving schools

Posted by lapearce on May 29, 2009

Teen learns car control at Driving Concepts school

Teen learns car control at Driving Concept's school

This is not a complete list at all. Here are some of the classes taking place across the nation that will go beyond DMV programs to teach teens what they really need to know in order to be safe on the road. Let me know if you know of a program you would like to add.

May 30-31

California: BMWCCA Street Survival, Cal. Speedway, Fontana

This is a very good group, I know many of the instructors personally and I highly endorse their program. It is also nation wide, for other upcoming events go here.

Indiana: St. Mary’s Hospital Free Teen Driving Academy

Classroom based program that will focus on a number of dangers of driving. Also includes a drunk driving simulator.

June 3

Florida: Brevard County Sheriff’s Office Teen Driver Challenge

This sounds like a great program. It is two days, one in classroom, one in the car and it is free.

June 6-7

California: Driving Concepts Teen Car Control Clinic

This is my program, so I’m a little partial to it ūüėÄ you can read my review of one of our previous programs here

June 9

California: CHP Street Smart class, Moorepark

This isn’t the most comprehensive program available to say the least, but it is free, so there is no reason¬† not to go if you are in the area. I discuss this program here.

June 12-13

Nevada: Driving School at Spring Mountain Motorsports Park, Pahrump

This is a new program. If you want my opinion, I think it is overpriced, but it has good bones. For comparison, our program costs $100 less, is tax deductible, and lasts two more hours. But we aren’t in Nevada. And we don’t have a race track (in their defense, those are expensive to rent out).

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Summary of Sunday’s Clinic

Posted by lapearce on February 14, 2009

Yasmine nagivages an emergency lane change in H3

We had a great class on Sunday. Judy, our head instructor, was off testing out the brand new BMW 7 series with Creiver BMW, but the rest of the instructors stepped in to teach the class.

We had nine students and the range of teens and cars wouldn’t have been more diverse and interesting: from a Mini Cooper to a Ford F350 super dulie! Classes this diverse are always the best, because they show both the parents and the teens how differently some cars can turn, stop and avoid accidents.

One of our students, Yasmine came with her parents and two cars: Mercedes S class and a Hummer H. Neither of which were the car she would be driving when she got her license, but they¬†brought both cars because they didn’t know which one she should learn on.

Yasmine wanted to learn in the Mercedes because the H3 scared her. I told her parents to use the H3. The car was going to be a lot harder to handle. She would have to work a lot harder to learn in it, and that hard work would pay off in appreciation and skills that would be transfered than if the course was taken in a car that does everything for you.

At the end of the day, Yasmine was glad she learned in the H3. While she no longer was afraid to drive the car, but¬†she also knew that she didn’t want to. She said the best thing about learning how to drive in the H3 was that she really appreciated small cars because of it. She learned that bigger doesn’t mean safer if you can’t avoid an accident.

I know Yasmine will be fine once she gets her license.

Elizabeth struggles to miss cones in her large truck

Elizabeth struggles to avoid cones in her large truck

The nimble MINI goes around the obstical with ease

Blake learns that when you lock up the brakes on a car without ABS that the car no longer turns

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