An eye-opening and mind-changing experience is what the organizers were aiming for when 18 new teen drivers and their parents were exposed to the surprising statistics, real-life stories and hands-on demonstrations of distracted driving Sunday, April 7, during the pilot “Survive Your Drive” program held at Fred Beans Ford in Doylestown.
And from all first-hand reports, “eye-opening” and “mind-changing” is just what these new drivers and their mothers and fathers received from their three hours with local law enforcement and driver safety professionals.
A presentation and open discussion with parents and teens included a hard-hitting, 10-minute video on distracted and reckless driving, “What Do You Consider Lethal?”, along with clarification of the 2011 updates to the PA Graduated Drivers License and a run-through of “what to do when” tips for handling driving situations such as if you’re in an accident or stopped by police.
This was followed by lunch, courtesy of the auto dealership group, and an hour of “distracted driving” experience with golf carts on a specially constructed course.
A program for new teen drivers
“Survive Your Drive: A Safe Driving Program for Teens” was developed out of the longtime partnership between Central Bucks Family YMCA and Fred Beans Family of Dealerships and spurred by a desire to change the frightening statistics concerning mortality and new teen drivers.
“Safety for new drivers was a subject that interested our teen leaders,” says Rachel Mauer, director of community outreach for the Y. “They want to learn more than what they get in driver education programs – hands-on, first-person experiences that they believe will have more of an impact. So we assembled a group of experts, invited our first batch of teens, and asked parents to attend, too.”
“Our goal is to use this program to make new drivers aware of these statistics about real people just like their friends and classmates – and that most of the car crashes are preventable simply by being aware and using common sense,” said Anne Biggs, a co-developer of the CB Cares/Fred Beans Safe Driving Contract that was given to each teen driver and parent. “If this program helps to keep them safe for just the first couple of years that they are driving, they’ll have time to gain the experience and maturity to keep themselves safe after that.”
Survive Your Drive
The presentation and Q&A was led by Officer Dave Carlen of Doylestown Borough Police Department. He was assisted by Officer Bill Mokriski, Doylestown Township Police Department; Chuck Pressler, executive director, Central Bucks Ambulance & Rescue; Stan Litzenberger, certified driver training educator with Duncan School of Driving and sales consultant at Fred Beans Hyundai; and Katherine Olsen, health educator, Street Smarts Regional Highway Traffic Safety Project. Of additional help with regulations, training and graduated driver’s licensing was Mary Duncan of Duncan School of Driving.
Following the presentation and lunch provided by the Beans organization, everyone headed out to an empty parking lot on the Beans Ford campus where Katherine Olsen had set up a short driving course with cones and stop and yield signs. Teen drivers paired up with Stan Litzenberger or Bill Mokriski to drive one of two golf carts through the course – first with no distractions, then a second time while distracted by text messages from their parents and wearing “beer goggles” to create the visual equivalent of alcohol impairment.
“Even though we all had fun, and these were just plastic highway cones that the kids were running over, we could see they learned a lot from the hands-on experience,” said Olsen.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens. In 2010, seven teens ages 16 to 19 died every day from motor vehicle injuries. Per mile driven, teen drivers ages 16 to 19 are three times more likely than drivers aged 20 and older to be in a fatal crash.
Curriculum planners and organizers included the above professionals as well as Rachel Mauer for CBFYMCA and Virginia Krause, business development manager, and Anne Biggs, PR consultant, for Fred Beans Family of Dealerships.
Plans are to expand the program and offer it to more new drivers. For more information about “Survive Your Drive” for your teen, contact Rachel Mauer, 215.348.8131 x-1167 or Virginia Krause, 215.348.2901 x-255.