Keeping Teens from Killing Themselves on the Road

David Axberg
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Horst Reinhardt

Is your teenager a good driver? Or does he scare the daylights out of you by driving around at high speeds with a load of friends, their seats in full recline and the music blasting? If your teenagers scare you, you may want to consider enrolling them in Street Survival, a program put on by the Tire Rack. Street Survival is a one day advanced driver's education course for teens only, run by local chapters of the BMW CCA. It emphasizes car control and emergency maneuvering instead of long classroom lecture time and road sign identification.

Designed to be taken after a student has already learned how to operate a car and knows all the usual traffic procedures, this course has one main objective: to teach teenagers, through hands-on practice, to be safer drivers. It emphasizes techniques to avoid rather than just deal with accidents.

My wife Sarah and I recently had the opportunity to attend a Street Survival event in the Detroit area. Of course, being a car enthusiast and someone who loves to drive, I was immediately excited about taking the class. On the other hand, even though teens may enjoy the freedom having a car provides, most don't have a passion for cars quite like me. To gain insight into that strange perspective (I mean, how can you not love cars?), I conned my wife into attending the event with me. Like the teens at our event that were forced to go by their parents, she was quite reluctant to be there. In the days leading to the event, she made numerous attempts to create scheduling conflicts in the hopes that she could somehow escape going. She didn't stand a chance.

The program is set up so that students use their own cars for the day in order to gain a familiarity with the dynamics of the vehicle they drive most often. With that in mind, my wife would be driving our trusty 1994 Honda Accord. Since we share the car, I had to find something else to drive. Luckily, I was able to drive our V-8 powered Four Seasons Infiniti M45. Power oversteer, here I come. Where's that button to turn off the stability control?

After barely arriving on time for registration (my wife was so enthusiastic that she overslept), we were poised to begin the day. The event took place at a local college with a roomy parking lot where the exercises were designed so that speeds rarely rose above 50 mph. After a brief instructional period consisting of some basic car control principles, we were let loose on the parking lot for our first lesson.

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