So, your 16 year old kid just passed their driving test. Elated, they grab the keys to your [insert yuppy luxo car here] ready for an adventure. The doubt you are feeling about their safety isn’t just normal parental concern, but rather you know that they are under-prepared and under-trained. The news that drivers’ training in the US is sub-par… well, it isn’t really news at all. It’s more like common knowledge, and frankly, it’s embarrassing. So, to keep them safe, you’re going to personally help them build confidence behind the wheel and make them aware of the law. But aren’t you a product of the same flawed system? But no I hear you say! I’ve been driving for 20 years with barely any accidents. Plus they were his fault! I’m the perfect parent to show my kid the responsibility of driving. Sure, you do indeed have real world experience, but all you’ve done is manage to drive around the chaos instead of improve it.
The truth is most Americans are severely lacking in everyday skills needed for the road, so it comes as no surprise that the road is a dangerous place. Everyone has that one friend that can’t seem to get down the road without making their passengers’ heart skip several beats. The worst part is the fact that most don’t even realize how bad their driving is. Educating the next generation of drivers from their first day behind the wheel would make roads a lot safer not to mention put your mind at ease. Thankfully, there are education courses available to your teen, that involve car control in a safe setting with a professional driving instructor.
There have been numerous published statistics showing the increased accident rate for teen drivers. Most of these accidents could have been avoided with a simple understanding of vehicle dynamics. We don’t have to be race car drivers or engineers to understand some basic principles. I’m certainly not a professional driving instructor but I am a flight instructor. For student pilots, being taught how to take the aircraft to the limit of its capabilities is a required part of training as well as practicing emergency situations.
There’s really no reason why driving shouldn’t be the same way. Basic driving physics and theory isn’t rocket science and should really be taught to all drivers. Just as professional pilots learn control through theory, a properly trained professional driving instructors can coach your children through the basics. Here are some questions every driver should be able to answer:
What is a “contact patch,” and how many does your car have?
What is “oversteer,” and “understeer?”
How do you correct for excessive amounts of oversteer and understeer?
If you cannot answer these questions with absolute conviction, then you might want think very hard about the following. Old Man Winter teaching driver’s ed’ to your kid’s highschool definitely does not have the answers, unless he’s Jackie Stuart. How can you solve this problem? Unfortunately, it requires money, over $2000 in some cases. However, and I stress, it is worth every penny. The good news is that you can probably find one near your home. You may clutch your heart at the mere thought of that figure, but you really can’t put a price on your kids’ safety.
A quick look at other countries (Japan, Norway, and Finland to name a few) will show that these courses are required even to get a basic driving license and are not free in all countries. The driving record in those countries are much improved for the the US’s as a result of better training early on. It works abroad, so it can work here. The knowledge and experience gained can help save your kids’ lives and yours too if you decide to attend.
So you can scoff at the statistics and take matters into your own hands, or let the pro’s take care of it. All you have to do is spend a litte time on a web search engine and you’ll find something that you and your wallet can live with. Who know’s, maybe you’ll find a free one (yes they do exist). Here are some schools some of which I have personally attended: Skip Barber Racing School, Russel Racing School, Bondurant School of High Performance Driving, Bridgestone’s Driver’s Edge, Derek Daly Performance Academy. Stay tuned for Part 2 for an in-depth look at one of the schools’ programs.