Monday, July 9, 2012

Key to Safe Teen Driving

I had a lot of firsts with my little Ford Focus today. I did figure-eights around a parking lot so fast that I squealed my tires (fun). I literally floored my gas pedal and took off like a stunt driver in an action movie (more fun). I had a grown man scream at me across a parking lot, “Are you a hooker?!” (I’ll explain that one later). And it was all part of the best driver’s education experience I’ve ever had.

I took a class at the Indiana State Fairgrounds as part of the Key to Safe Teen Driving Program that is put on by the Mid-Ohio School. The Mid-Ohio School is an innovative driving school that focuses on providing hands-on experience while teaching defensive driving techniques. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for 15- to 20-year olds, and that’s the motivation behind this program.

At the first station they had a “Skid Car” where the back-end was lifted off the ground by another set of wheels. I took that car around a cone at 15 mph and completely spun out (my tread marks are still on the asphalt to prove it). But now I have a better idea of how to handle my car when I lose traction on a patch of ice. The key is quick hands and to fix your eyes in the direction that you want your car to go.

We got to practice wet braking at the second station, and this was my favorite. I floored the gas pedal for about 100 feet and then slammed on my brakes once I hit the puddle they made in the parking lot. Your car can stop quicker than you think on wet pavement.

At the final station, we practiced emergency lane changes. I got to floor it again (yay!) and then swerve hard at the last minute in the direction the instructor pointed. I know I’ve been in situations where an animal has run into the road in front of me or another car has drifted into my lane, so this will certainly come in handy.

Now I know you’re wondering why someone would ask me if I was a “hooker.” It has to do with your hand positioning on the steering wheel. The ideal way to grip the wheel is at 9 and 3, like on a clock. You’re not supposed to palm the wheel. You’re not supposed to steer with one hand. And I quickly found out you are not supposed to “hook” your hand behind the wheel and grip it from the back, like this:

The Mid-Ohio instructors will be at the fairgrounds Tuesday, July 10 for another full day of sessions, and spots are still open. It’s a totally free program, and teens will learn so much from it (and so will parents). You get a certificate of completion at the end that is quite attractive to insurance companies and may even lower your premium.

You can register here:


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