Teaching teenagers the importance of driving safely is something that everyone seems to agree on. But, teaching how to react in unpredictable situations, what to do when something goes wrong and a skid starts, and what “turn into the skid” means – especially if the skid started at 60 miles per hour, can have many different answers.
Driver’s Edge is a way to get answers to those questions. In a four-hour session, teenagers are given instruction and hands-on training about cars, car control and what happens to their vision when they’ve had too much to drink. Unlike other driver’s education programs, Driver’s Edge is taught by performance driving instructors and racecar drivers and is designed to “alter young driver behavior and to serve as a ‘wake-up call’ to the real life dangers of everyday driving.” Driver’s Edge gives teens the chance to get behind the wheel of a car, one they or their parents don’t own, find out what ABS (anti-lock brake systems) does, how it feels, and the difference it can make, and to experience a car skidding out of control and how to recover – all in a safe and controlled manner.
The non-driving modules are just as compelling. The California Highway Patrol participated in the program to emphasize making correct choices. To help drivers understand this message, students wore “drunk goggles” or “fatal vision goggles.” These goggles allow the wearer to realize what it’s like to attempt to walk a straight line or take a field sobriety test while driving under the influence. Another module focused on simple but often overlooked concepts such as driving position, side mirror positioning, and hand placement on the steering wheel (it’s 3 and 9 o’clock, not 10 and 2 or 4 and 8).
Driver’s Edge came to Great America in Santa Clara and provided four classes. Some of the teens had experienced the Driver’s Edge program before and were there for a second time, while for others, it was their first time. For 17-year old Brandon, the program was “just what I needed. Although I wished I could have gone a few months ago. I was fooling around with some friends and spun my car out and had no idea what to do. Nothing happened, but we were all pretty scared.”
Normally, a high performance driving school can be very expensive. However, the Driver’s Edge program is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization and public charity. All of the Driver’s Edge classes are offered for free. The Driver’s Edge program is a valuable lesson and, for many, the first step in their training. For those interested in additional classes, other high performance driving schools are available. The Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving (www.bondurant.com), Skip Bar Racing School (www.skipbarber.com), and Hooked on Driving (www.hookedondriving.com) all offer advanced driving techniques that can benefit any driver. For more information on the Driver’s Edge program, visit www.driversedge.org.