Most people wouldn’t pull up their emergency brake as they made a sharp turn on a wet street, because that would cause the car to spin.
But that’s exactly what young drivers did – courtesy of instructors confronting them with a problem – as engines revved and tires squealed during the Bridgestone Teens Drive Smart Driving Experience on Sept. 6.
Ashley Jones, a 16-year-old from Stallings in Union County, looked nervous as she sat in the driver’s seat of the BMW 328 next to instructor Brian Cole. She explained she had just received her learner’s permit the day before. That didn’t seem to concern Cole.
What Ashley didn’t tell him was that she had wrecked the driver education car on her first day of in-car classes by turning into a delivery truck, totaling the car.
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The first time Cole pulled the brake, Ashley shrieked and didn’t respond as she should, trailing off in nervous laughter as the car spun in circles on the wet pavement.
Repeating his earlier instructions, Cole said, “Look where you want the front end to go, and steer the car in that direction.”
On her next attempt, Ashley did better but over-corrected, making the car slide a little in the opposite direction. On her final try she was able to correct for the slide and straighten the car’s path, learning a steering technique that could save her life one day.
Young drivers can’t practice these skills on the road, but the open area of the parking lot at zMax Dragway provided the perfect spot: The only things available to hit were the red cones defining the course.
The event, which started in 2011 and visits 12 cities per year, was free for drivers ages 15-21 who have a learner’s permit or license. Eleven instructors with experience in motor racing or stunt driving taught the students accident avoidance skills.
Instructor Matt Jaskolspoke to parents about distracted driving before everyone headed out to the courses.
Jaskol asked, “Do you know why they restrict you to one friend passenger when you first get your license?”
A voice in the crowd shouted, “So we only kill one other person,” and voices erupted in laughter.
Jaskol, who taught the class on distracted driving, explained that the reason was to limit young drivers’ distractions while they are learning to drive.
The young drivers enjoyed Jaskol admonishing some parents for teaching their children distracted driving behavior. He suggested the teens correct their parents when their parents are distracted while driving.
To illustrate the danger of texting and driving, the young drivers maneuvered golf carts through a marked course without any problems. Driving the same course, while trying to text, each failed miserably, running over the cones that marked the route.
When the laughter stopped, course instructor Andrew Shoen reminded them they were going only 5 miles per hour. “Imagine what would happen at 55 miles per hour,” he said.
The final driving exercise taught high speed-emergency lane changing and fast braking under control.
Classes on car care and vehicle dynamics helped the drivers gain a better understanding of their vehicles and how they operate.
Leslie Wilhite, manager of communications with tiremaker Bridgestone Corp., said the four half-day sessions on Sept. 6 and 7 set the attendance record for 2014 with 380 teens. That placed the event a close second to the all-time record of 383 teens, set at the Minneapolis 2013 experience.
Ashley Jones said, “It was scary but fun. I thought it was going to be boring, but it was a lot of fun.
“Plus you get to drive a real nice BMW. I plan on coming to the next one.”