A hundred Perry High School physics students who just got their driver’s license or permit had a chance recently to learn safe-driving techniques.
They were among some 2,000 students who participated in the program at the Phoenix Fire Academy sponsored by the train Ford Motor Company Fund, Governors Highway Safety Association and Farm Bureau Financial Services.
The four-hour courses over the course of the five-day program taught hazard recognition, vehicle handling, speed management and distracted and impaired driving.
The leading cause of death among teenagers is car crashes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration,
Contrary to a popular belief that most teen-driver accidents result from impaired or distracted driving, skills instructor, Rob Smith said, most fatal accidents result from are due to inexperience.
“A large part of deadly accidents is mainly due to teens not taking the time to practice and strengthen their driving skills,” said Smith.
“It is important to put those lessons to use as much as possible to become comfortable with certain actions and unexpected situations,” he added. “Where better than in a safe and controlled environment like Ford Driving Skills for Life?”
Smith, a 17-year veteran police officer, has worked with the program to inform drivers of the dangers of impaired and distracted driving because he has seen their tragic results.
Ford instructor Juan Babun demonstrated how to recover from skids, or an oversteer situation, by teaching the skills needed to determine which way to turn the steering wheel and how fast to go to gain control of the car again.
Babun said that put the teens a step ahead of many experienced drivers who have never learned the skills covered in the program.
“These active lessons aren’t designed for everyone to be successful the first time around. Yes, they are going to lose control of the vehicle but let’s figure out how to quickly and safely take that control back,” Babun said, explaining:
“Most drivers immediately panic when events like this happen and unfortunately, this leads to a lot of preventable deaths.”
Perry senior Diana Garza said she felt more confident as a driver after attending the program.
“I am very glad I decided to sign up for this. I have had no formal training as this and I have already learned so much just from being here,” Garza said.
The high school student said that when she was younger, she was involved in a car accident after her older sister ran a red light,
“Before, I felt I was a fairly good driver,” Garza said. “After going through some of the training here, it has made me more aware of what experiences I am lacking in without the stress of being in a dangerous situation where I could potentially hurt myself and others.
“I absolutely recommend other inexperienced drivers out there to take advantage of this program.”
Ford Driving Skills program manager Jim Graham believes that when it comes to driving, “knowledge is key.”
“They say that the brain does not fully develop until 25 years old but it’s clear that teens absorb so much information at this age. That’s why it is vital that they learn these skills early on as they can save their lives,” said Graham, adding:
“It is a real shame that a lot of public schools do not provide this type of driver training in their curriculum anymore. Many parents tell us we are one of the few free options they have when they want to introduce their teens to get behind the wheel.”
Graham said the program also encourages parents to adhere to the same lessons that teens are being taught.
“Younger individuals look to their parents to lead by example. It is not enough to simply tell them ‘do as I say, not as I do,’” he said. “I always like to say learning to drive successfully is a life-long process, this is a step in the process.”