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Driving Force Behind Course: Teen Road Safety

7/22/2010
Toledo Blade, Aliyya Swaby

Zach Sares drove a "skid car" continuously around a set of orange cones, while an instructor next to him intentionally put the car into a skid and watched the 17-year-old try to regain control.

This was one of three stations at KeyBank's free safe teen driving program yesterday at Sylvania Southview High School for teens to learn about and practice advanced techniques not taught in most driver's education programs. The program will continue at Perrysburg High School today.

Dan Davis, KeyBank's regional public relations manager, said the main goals of the program were to teach teenagers an advanced defensive driving program and to raise awareness that current teaching methods are inadequate.

Last year, the program was a one-day event in Columbus, but this year it has expanded to eight schools in four cities across Ohio and Indiana, Mr. Davis said. More than 100 students in the area registered for yesterday's four three-hour sessions.

Kumho Tires provided the truck that served as program headquarters and set up an outdoor "classroom" with the three stations. The Mid-Ohio School in Lexington, Ohio, provided professional instructors and the skid car.

The other two stations allowed teens to use their own cars to practice emergency lane change maneuvers and braking on a wet road. Students also were taught in a classroom to avoid driving while distracted by devices such as cell phones.

Instructor Dave Roush, general manager of the Mid-Ohio School, said the most difficult part of the program was convincing teens to sign up.

"We have to get them to realize that they're not as good as they think they are with driving," he said.

While waiting to practice emergency lane change maneuvers, Brad Brown said his parents talked him into attending the event that morning. The 15-year-old has a learner's permit and said his parents wanted him to get more experience in safe driving before he started driving alone.

By the end of the program, most students realize the exercises are actually fun and useful, Mr. Davis said.

John Collier, 15, said he signed up to experience the situations before he encounters them in real-life driving.

"It was fun, but now I know what those things feel like," he said.

Today's program at Perrysburg High School, 13385 Roachton Rd. in Perrysburg, has spots available, especially for the early morning sessions at 7:30 and 9. Interested teens can register online at keytosafeteendriving.com or just show up in person.
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