Parents eagerly spend time
and money (and miles of travel) to make sure their
children learn to play a sport or dance or sing
or create the next iPhone application or video game
experience. And yet, when it comes to teaching a
teenager to drive
In his book Traffic, Tom Vanderbilt explains
that driving "is an incredibly complex and demanding
In the extensive research for his book, Vanderbilt
learned that a driver has to process "a bewildering
amount of information," is constantly making
"predictions and calculations and on-the-fly
judgments of risk and reward," and is doing
all that in a "spontaneous setting" of
constant change while "engaging in a high amount
of sensory and cognitive activity - the full scope
of which scientists are just beginning to understand."
And yet, after almost no formal training, other
than perhaps a course designed not to teach driving
skills but to assure passage of a state driver's
licensing exam, we send our teenagers out onto the
road, where they are injured or killed by the thousands
A case can be made that handing the keys to a teen
without proper preparation is another form of child
abuse. And the costs to the injured individuals,
to shattered families and to society at large are
However, those costs also are, if not avoidable
to some extent, open to mitigation through better,
genuine driver's education and training.
Some accidents may truly be unavoidable, but too
often crashes are not really accidents but the result
of mistakes in judgment, errors in attention and
anticipation, or simply not knowing what to do.
Specialized teenage driving schools and other teen-oriented
safe-driving programs are designed to teach and hopefully
prepare new drivers not only for the physical skills
they'll need to drive, but for the decision-making
they must do amid all of the distractions they'll
face on the road.
Here is a list of some of these schools and programs:
BMW Teen School
The BMW Performance Driving School is located at
Spartanburg, South Carolina, near the automaker's
U.S. assembly plant. A special feature is a track
imbedded with water jets that can be activated to
simulate obstacles suddenly appearing in the roadway.
Chrysler Road Ready Teens
Road Ready Teens is a home-based (Internet) program
for parents and the new drivers in their families.
The program comprises an interactive instructional
computer game for the teen driver and a 12-page manual
for the parents. Road Ready Teens is available in
English and Spanish.
Ford Driving Skills for Life
Though primarily a web-based educational program
for teenage drivers and their parents, Ford's
Driving Skills for Life includes free behind-the-wheel
sessions held at locations around the country. The
web-based part of the program has instructions for
parents and various learning activities for the teenaged
driver. For example, in the Hazard Concentration
game - a timed match game -- we learn that if it
takes you one second to divert your eyes from the
road to change the radio station while driving 60
miles per hour, you've traveled 90 feet with knowing
where you were.
Bondurant School of High-Performance Driving
The instructors at the famed Bondurant School just
south of Phoenix enjoy teaching teens, they say,
because the new drivers haven't had time to learn
bad habits, so the instructors can get right to teaching
instead of spending time with trying to get students
to unlearn. In addition to standard General Motors
vehicles, students spend time in a special skid car
that can simulate a variety of low-traction situations.
Driver's Edge / Bridgestone Safety Scholars
Driver's Edge is a non-profit organization that goes
around the country teaching safe-driving skills.
Among its sponsors is tire maker Bridgestone, which
stages its own Safety Scholars safe-driving video
and has launched a new global Think Before You Drive
teen safe-driving effort.
Arizona-based DrivingMBA offers a variety of driving
programs, both at a driving simulator and on the
road. Among the school's offerings are several designed
N Control Driving
Another Arizona-based driving program, N Control
was launched by a former Bondurant instructor.
Honda Teen Defensive Driving Program
Honda not only has a defensive driving school program
for teenagers, but offers a 2-for-1 price discount.
Honda's program is offered in conjunction with the
Mid-Ohio School at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course
at Lexington, Ohio, though instruction takes place
off the racing surface at a vehicle dynamics center.
Toyota Driving Expectations
What to expect from your car, the road and from yourself
is the theme of Toyota
Driving Expectations, a four-hour program held
in various venues to offer classroom and at-the-wheel
driving education for newly licensed teenagers and
their parents. Not only are the new drivers taught
proper techniques, but parents can learn how to break
their own bad driving habits.
Tire Rack Street Survival
Last years, more than 1500 students went through
one-day Tire Rack Street Survival classes at some
70 locations across the country. This year, 80 such
sessions are planned.
Bridgestone Winter Driving School
Bridgestone's winter driving school at Steamboat
Springs, Colorado, allows teenagers to participate
if parents sign a waiver. Winter driving techniques
and vehicle control maneuvers are not the same set
of skills you use on warm and dry pavement. There
are aspects of winter driving that go against the
typical driver's instincts.