by Zach Maskell
Unlike in most countries, Americans view driving as more of a right than a privilege. So even where formal driver’s training is required, it’s pretty basic. Most drivers get little or no training in how to handle the unpredictable highway scenarios of the real world. But, our Over the Edge reporter, Zach Maskell has found a group of experts that want to make sure young drivers know their stuff.
ZACH MASKELL: Driver error is the reason thousands of teens and novice drivers are killed in the U.S. every year. Had they been taught more out of the classroom about car control, their hands-on skills could’ve saved them.
INSTRUCTOR: “Anybody awake? Alright, good.”
ZACH MASKELL: But that’s where it starts early on a Saturday. This time in Sykesville, Maryland. Groggy.. seemingly uninterested teens learn the physics of their vehicles… and how they’ll use them on track at the Maryland state Drivers Training Facility.
INSTRUCTOR: “I promise you… by lunch time you’re going to be excited… it really is fun.”
INSTRUCTOR: “Good job. Can you make it can you make it? Easy. You got a little confused. You got scared.”
INSTRUCTOR: “You skipped the turn!”
ZACH MASKELL: Mostly inexperienced teens pushing their cars like never before. Adrenaline pumping… nerves through the roof. But it didn’t take long… until I found a growing trend.
ZACH MASKELL: “How are you feeling right now?
STUDENT: “Nervous but excited”
STUDENT: “I didn’t know it was going to be this extreme. Slamming on the brakes. It’s really fun”
ZACH MASKELL: Street Survival is exactly that. Teaching drivers how to save themselves in an emergency situation.
PARENT: “Everybody should have to do this. It could be life or death.”
ZACH MASKELL: Before track time... everyone’s ride gets an inspection. One student found out his tire pressure was 9 pounds low.
PARENT: “He was convinced that ‘oh I’m not going to learn anything… what are they going to teach me I don’t already know.’”
ZACH MASKELL: Vanasse said if his son wants to take advanced driving classes.. he had to start here.
STUDENT: “I thought it would be more classroom oriented but it’s not.”
ZACH MASKELL: Every parent watched their kids progress throughout the day… and the transformation was obvious.
PARENT: “What I’ve seen so far... oop. There goes one cone… he’s been going alright.”
ZACH MASKELL: The slalom teaches control… quick lane changes for accident avoidance… and emergency braking to show how their vehicle reacts both turning and straight on. Let’s not forget the skid pad to demonstrate over and understeer. In many other countries… this kind of training is required.
STUDENT: “When we went to Europe at races and stuff all the guys there have gone and just talked about their drivers ed and how much harder they are.”
ZACH MASKELL: Some of the students can’t get enough.
STUDENT: “This is my third time doing it. So I was excited and right now I’m amped. I could go for the rest of the day until the sun goes down.”
ZACH MASKELL: Leading these teens are high performance car club members with years of experience. Street Survival is run by volunteers… with over 100 schools held nationally in 2013… by local chapters.
INSTRUCTOR: “I wish every student who got their driver’s license had to go through a course like this.”
ZACH MASKELL: Whether they realized it or not… the instructors were constantly testing the drivers.
INSTRUCTOR: “What worked for me was I had my guy recite the alphabet backwards. He went from being very good in an exercise to totally incompetent.”
ZACH MASKELL: “We had a little bit of everything today… from an Integra that’s painted with palm tree leaves… to a supercharged Mustang. Instructors tell us there’s good reason for that too.”
INSTRUCTOR: “If they’re on the streets and something strange or terrible happens it’s going to happen in their own car. Every car handles differently.”
ZACH MASKELL: As the teens got more comfortable… the smiles came out. Even Robbie… whose Porsche 944 decided it had enough and had to be towed home.
STUDENT: “It was a really good day. Until my car broke.”
ZACH MASKELL: His car has an advantage over the average… but after coming to these classes… he wishes more young drivers would experience it.
STUDENT: I know of lot of people that say “Oh I can’t believe that your car does that. Well your car can probably do it too, you just don’t know.”
ZACH MASKELL: Cones were killed… tires lost tread… and young drivers gained confidence. Sounds award worthy to me.
STUDENT: “I loved today it was so much fun.”
STUDENT: “Doing these classes just opened my eyes. Nothing better I can say.”