Early yesterday the peaceful quiet of a beautiful Sunday morning in Cobb County was shattered by high performance cars being driven around a closed track at speed.
With tires screeching and engines screaming, several brand new 2013 BMW 328i’s were being driven by 85 Atlanta-area teenagers taking their turn behind the wheel in an innovative road safety program directed at young drivers.
The Bridgestone Teens Drive Smart Driving Experience is a free half-day workshop provided to new permitted or licensed drivers between the ages of 15 and 20 to provide them some much needed education and hands on experience about how cars react, respond and perform under certain road conditions.
Led by professional race-car drivers, many not much older than the students themselves as coaches and teachers, the program provides new drivers with practical information about driving and driving conditions that should enable them to make smarter driving decisions on the roads. This is information that they might not get from their parents or local driving schools. Not only that but the young drivers get to drive a BMW 328i in a skid pan!
Led by Matt Jaskol, a winner of Formula BMW races at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the young drivers were treated to several group discussions that considered the need for young driver education, an appreciation of vehicle dynamics, and car maintenance programs that keep the car on the road.
There was also a practical demonstration of just how bad texting and driving can be. The young drivers had to negotiate their way around a tight winding track in a golf cart while texting on their cell phones. The busiest person there was the one tasked with replacing the traffic cones that were frequently hit, toppled and run over as the drivers could not keep the golf carts on track. One student even dropped their cell phone and almost ran over it during their circuit.
For the teenagers though the highlight was getting behind the wheel and putting the car through its paces on the closed track. The drivers learned how the car reacts under heavy braking, high speed lane changing and experienced the dramatic impact on car stability of driving in the wet. There were big smiles as drivers inadvertently slid into donuts on the skid pan.
For the parents there watching the reaction was nothing but positive given the extent of the education the student drivers received and for those that listened in on the class sessions there was no doubt that they learned something too! There was no sales pitch, the information and experience provided was all relevant to young drivers going out on the roads.
Every driver that completed the course received a Diploma and some other goodies including a car care kit, a t-shirt, a baseball cap and a flash drive with video from a dash mounted camera that showed the student's facial expressions while they were driving the BMW.
This program was free to every participant. If you have a new young driver in your family you should check the Teens Drive Smart website to find out when it will be in your town. It will help your child become a better driver and they'll have fun doing the program.
This program will not solve all the issues that young drivers face but it will raise awareness of many and for that both Bridgestone and BMW should be applauded. They provide this program to young drivers entirely at their cost in the hope that they become better more attentive drivers.