On a recent Saturday, over 30 teenage drivers (most accompanied by their parents) made their way to Consumer Reports Auto Test Center in rural Connecticut for an experience that could one day save their lives.
These teens were enrolled in Tire Rack Street Survival School put on by BMW CCA Connecticut Valley Chapter and hosted by Consumer Reports. This event gave these new drivers a "hands-on" driving experience that will stay with them forever. As a member of the instruction team, I knew that these teenagers were going to learn various driving skills during the day, from emergency braking to swerving around a potentially deadly road hazard. These events are held throughout the entire country, and can be hosted at a place as simple as a shopping center parking lot. All you need is a car and an eager teen who's ready to learn skills behind the wheel that most will never get the opportunity to do.
Learn more about keeping teens safe behind the wheel in our guide to distracted driving and teen car safety.
After a quick drivers meeting and a car tech inspection to make sure their vehicles were safe for the track, the students were paired up with an instructor. I had the opportunity to meet many of the students, and at first I was surprised to notice that the teens weren't as rowdy or rebellious as we normally generalize the typical teen to be. They were well behaved and obedient, as if they were about to enter the DMV for their final driving exam. But I could sense some nervous energy in some of them. At first this surprised me, but as the day went on I had began to realize something: So much emphasis has been put into teaching these new drivers all the dangers of the road and what not to do behind the wheel, many had lost the excitement most feel when they finally have the chance to get behind the wheel on their own.
However, as the nerves subsided and the students settled into the rhythm of the exercises we had prepared for them, I saw the enthusiasm come alive as they heard their tires squeal for the first time. They were learning something new and were having fun at the same time. The students were finally being taught what to do, rather than what not to do.
We saw the students enjoying themselves as they realized that there was much more to being a better, safer, more aware driver than scare-tactic videos and rides on a crash-simulating sled. All the teens I had worked with that day know that drinking and driving is deadly and that you should never text behind the wheel. It has been beaten into their head throughout most of their youth. This program built on that in a way they could relate to. Ultimately, programs like Street Survival will make roadways safer one driver at a time.
Find a Street Survival school near you. For a listing of various other teen driving programs, see our teen driving school directory.
Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers or sponsors on this website. Copyright © 2007-2013 Consumers Union of U.S., Inc. No reproduction, in whole or in part, without written permission.