Mercedes To Start U.S. Teen Driving School

By Danny King April 5, 2011

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Get a Mercedes-Benz for your 16th birthday, and you may be labeled spoiled. Learn to drive on one, though, and you may be labeled safe. The Mercedes-Benz Driving Academy will start instructing novice drivers in the U.S. in late 2011, or about two years after the company started offering a similar program in the U.K. (above). The German automaker is looking to help reduce teen auto fatalities by offering courses that will give novice drivers skills beyond those learned in the 30 classroom hours and six behind-the-wheel hours typically included in driver’s education.

"With only 10 percent of crashes being a result of technical failure and 90 percent due to human error, Mercedes-Benz sees an opportunity to actively improve drivers' skills, focusing first on novice drivers, who are most at risk on U.S. roads,” said Alexander Hobbach, senior manager at Mercedes-Benz parent Daimler AG, in the statement.

Mercedes-Benz is pitching the school as a way to cut down accidents caused by teens, who are four times as likely to be involved in a crash as their older counterparts. Almost 4,000 of the approximately 34,000 people killed in 2009 car accidents were between the ages of 16 and 20, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Students of the academy’s U.K. version, which has tutored more than 4,600 people, passed their driver’s test on the first try 79 percent of the time, compared to 43 percent rate for the general public, Mercedes-Benz says.

Mercedes-Benz USA spokesman Adam Paige said the company hasn’t disclosed the academy location, specific curriculum or cost structure, though did say the academy would be in a major metropolitan area and noted that the class would “prepare students for today’s driving environment by going beyond basic car control skills and rote learning of traffic rules.” The U.K. academy offers packages ranging from a one-hour inspector-taught driving session on the road for about $60 to one hour on a track for $130 all the way up to a $640 package that includes nine hours on the road, one hour on the track and two hours of discussion groups.

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