Classes with names such as Street Survival and Put on the Brakes offer “real-world” driving days for teens, setting up potential accidents using cone barriers and wet asphalt, supplementing the country’s hodgepodge of driver’s education programs.
The courses emerge as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported 1,886 drivers between the ages of 15 and 20 died in motor vehicle crashes in 2015 — the latest available numbers. Another 195,000 young drivers were injured in 2015, the Insurance Information Institute said.
At the same time, teen and 20-year-old drivers made up 9 percent of motorists involved in fatal crashes in 2015, even though they accounted for just 5 to 6 percent of total drivers nationwide, or about 13.2 million drivers.
Organizations include the Tire Rack Street Survival program. Sponsored by the national discount tire seller, the course employs 2,000 volunteers with the BMW Car Club of America, Sports Car Club of America, the National Corvette Club of America, the Porsche Club of America and additional car enthusiasts "who serve as the personal coach with each teen," Tire Rack said.
The program hosted its 1,000th class in 2017 and is looking to make this year the fifth consecutive season with more than 100 classes hosted. Tire Rack noted that 20 percent of deaths among vehicle passengers of all ages occur while a teenager is driving.
According to its www.streetsurvival.org website, "The school's aim is to reduce deadly car crashes involving teenagers by providing them a controlled setting where they can gain invaluable experience in car control, all with a knowledgeable coach always at their side helping them to understand how important experience is over guessing when the unexpected happens on the road."
The one-day street courses, open to licensed or permitted drivers ages 15 to 21, try to simulate road conditions while encouraging the teen driver to react to hazardous experiences.
The course is partially wet down to allow students to experience “mistakes” at very slow speeds. In this class, mistakes are learning experiences, Tire Rack said.
Challenging driving courses are set up in a controlled area so teens can feel what abnormal car behavior is like and then teach how to handle the new situation.
Rather than a course to learn how to drive at high speeds, safety and car control are the goals.
The school emphasizes a “hands-on” driving experience in which the students use their own cars to understand the handling limits and how to control them. “Qualified coaches are in the car with the student throughout the entire day,” according to Tire Rack.
According to the street survival website, 16 driving schools are booked thus far in 2018 although reservations can take place throughout the year. Student cost is $95.
Another young motorist safety course is B.R.A.K.E.S. Teen Pro-Active Driving School. The free, defensive driving program is geared students aged 15-19 that already have a learner’s permit or driver’s license. So far, eight schools are lined up at motor speedways, fairgrounds and training centers in North Carolina, Georgia and California. Visit putonthebrakes.org.