When you’re the parent of a teen who is learning to drive, you can often live in a state of heightened anxiety.
And while traditional driver’s education programs are designed to prepare inexperienced operators to pass the state licensing exam, they do little to teach new drivers how to avoid hazards on the road.
To fill this void in road safety education, New England has access to the In Control Family Foundation, which hosts what it terms “Crash Prevention Training” courses for drivers of all ages and experience levels.
My son Dominick and I were privileged to partake of In Control’s 4 ½ hour class on a recent Saturday morning on the site of the old South Weymouth Naval Air Station. In Control offers a combination of behind the wheel exercises mixed with brief classroom instruction sessions during these intensive classes.
Thanks to the generosity of In Control Family Foundation, Safe Roads Alliance, and theHummingbird Foundation of Wrentham, MA, my son and I took the course together and were able to compare our talents and knowledge in a setting that promoted familial bonding.
The In Control classroom instruction advises drivers on numerous ways to prevent crashes. These range from keeping a properly maintained vehicle to staying alert and focused while operating your vehicle.
For example, In Control emphasizes the importance of having the right tires, and replacing them before they become too worn (and taught us how to measure if our tires are no longer safe). Reminders are also given on the need for always wearing seat belts, and how to best use your vehicle’s side mirrors and back-up cameras to avoid collisions.
The instructor also mentioned the perils of distracted and drowsy driving, two subjects of particular importance to those of us with the Safe Roads Alliance.
The dangers of distracted driving were demonstrated, quite effectively, during the road course portion of the class. The initial driving test involves taking one of In Control’s fleet of Honda Accords up to highway speed (we topped out at 61 mph) then braking to avoid a series of cones set up on the tarmac of the course. After 3 or 4 attempts, my instructor then handed me a calculator, as a cell phone simulator, and told me to punch in my birth year while driving at full speed. The results were. as you might expect, not pretty..
My son Dominick, who has had his learner’s permit for 5 months, found the road course especially valuable. He enjoyed the emergency braking session, which is designed to demonstrate the benefits of anti-lock brake systems (ABS) and how to properly use them.
Dominick particularly enjoyed the Slalom challenge, under which students must navigate between 7 cones placed 60 feet apart. The goal is to successfully steer between the cones, while gradually increasing the speed of your vehicle. Dominick excelled at this, while I managed to make it to 37 mph before destroying the sixth of the seven cones..
In Control is also valuable for older folks like me, because a lot has changed since I got my license in 1983. For example, because of advances in technology, we no longer are supposed to grip the steering wheel at “10 and 2.” In fact, “9 and 3” is the new 10 and 2, because it gives the driver easier control when steering and turning.
But the last of the four road course exercises reminded all the participants of the seriousness of road safety. In this challenge, the student driver must follow another car (driven by an instructor) that is pulling a flag on a tow line .
The goal of this test is to brake as soon as the other car brakes, and stop as quickly as possible, ideally before passing the tow line. This simulates a real-life highway emergency. Both Dominick and I reacted as fast as we could, but the car did not come to a stop until it was a good 25 feet beyond the pace car. “We would be waiting on a hearse,” the instructor told us. It was lighthearted, but the message was clear. Poor reaction times, and failure to focus can have lethal consequences.
The In Control Family Foundation provides these trainings to teach young drivers how to avoid crashes and other hazards while navigating our roadways. The classes remind us that even those who consider ourselves “safe drivers” can benefit from these refresher courses.
For more info about In Control Family Foundation or to sign up for their Crash Prevention 101 course visit www.DriveInControl.org You can also find their podcast where you download your own by searching 'Drive In Control' or visitwww.DriveInControl.org/podcast This podcast does a wonderful job of reviewing Safe Roads Alliance's The Parent's Supervised Driving Program, with each episode focusing on a new skill in the guidebook.
I am grateful to Safe Roads Alliance for arranging this day out for Dominick and myself, and also grateful to the Hummingbird Foundation, established in memory of Elizabeth Giordano of Wrentham, for underwriting the cost of this excursion. To learn more, visit www.hummingbirdmusicandarts.org/