- The Ford Lincoln dealership's teen safety driving classes are free for 15-19 year olds who are licensed drivers or have drivers' permits.
- The dealership pays for the driving instructors and uses its own new cars as training vehicles.
- It offers classes twice a year, and serves nearly 100 students per session.
DAYTONA BEACH, Florida — According to AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, teen drivers have the highest crash rate of any group in the United States, crashing four times as often as adults. Many people believe that one way to reduce these accidents is by offering more driving instruction for new drivers.
A Daytona Beach dealership is trying to help its local younger drivers be better prepared to hit the highways. Twice a year, Gary Yeomans Ford Lincoln pays for local teenagers to attend teen safety driving school. The driving school is divided into four classes, with each class made up of 25 or so 15-19-year-olds who have either driver's permits or driver's licenses.
The classes are free for the teens, and neither the participants nor their families need to have done business with the dealership in order to attend.
Trained driving instructors staff the teen driving schools, which are held on Gary Yeomans dealership lots that have been cleared of Ford and Lincoln vehicles for the event. The driving school begins with a short classroom session followed by hours of hands-on driving instruction, using the dealerships' cars.
Gary Yeomans Ford Lincoln began offering the driving classes three years ago, and the classes have been timed to coincide with the beginning and ending of the school year.
The young drivers get hands-on instruction in high-speed lane changes, high-speed maneuvers and hard braking, along with accident avoidance tips. Instructors ride with the teens in the cars, and encourage the teen drivers to push cars to learn how the vehicles react in emergency situations.
The school equips the practice cars with skid simulator systems. These are designed to make cars enter a skid at lower speeds than they would in a normal driving setting, allowing the young driver to feel what it's like to lose traction while driving. The instructors teach the participants how to regain control of the car in a controlled environment.
"Young drivers usually don't get the experience of driving like this in regular driver's education classes" says Troy Lerdo, Internet sales manager at Gary Yeomans Ford. That's mainly because most driver education practice cars aren't equipped with the skid simulators.
Giving teens "a chance to learn how to protect themselves and other drivers with professional instruction is a step toward making them better drivers," he says.
The dealership's commitment to making better drivers doesn't end with the driving school.
Gary Yeoman takes a customized Ford Mustang, equipped with an onboard driving simulator, to local high schools. The simulator is made to show drivers how their driving changes when they're distracted.
The simulator uses driver inputs from the gas pedal and steering wheel of the Mustang to create a realistic driving experience through the simulated course, while the car stays stationary. While driving the simulated course, the students send text messages. They then get to see how sending the text affected their control of the vehicle, and what the results could be.
These efforts are part of the dealership's goal of encouraging safer driving, Lerdo says. "Giving these young drivers some extra instruction is good for everybody. It makes them better drivers, and helps keep the roads safer for everybody."
Edmunds says: Perhaps the dad of one teen driver said it best when talking about the driving school: "They aren't trying to drum up business; they are trying to actually save some people from getting hurt."