Personal Injury

Nonprofit group on tour teaching defensive driving to young drivers

Driver’s Edge, a nonprofit, teen-oriented driver’s education group based in Las Vegas, Nevada, recently paid a visit to Pelham, Alabama, to teach about 350 young drivers ages 15 to 21 some defensive driving techniques that might one day save their lives.

According to The Birmingham News, Driver’s Edge travels the country providing lessons free of cost to young drivers. The program, which is fully sponsored by Bridgestone Tires, teaches the drivers how to maintain control of a fishtailing car by laying off the brakes and focusing on where they want the vehicle to go. A professional driver accompanies the student drivers, providing instructions and advice until they are able to successfully maneuver the vehicle out of bad situations.

Jeff Payne, founder of Driver’s Edge, told The Birmingham News that the group chose to include Birmingham on the tour because Alabama ranked second in the nation in 2008 for teen traffic fatalities. Payne said that of the 996 motor vehicle-related fatalities in Alabama that year, nearly 25 percent were ages 16 to 24.

The group’s administrators offered written tests before and after the course to measure students’ driving knowledge, sessions with Alabama State Troopers on drunk and distracted driving, and instructions on car maintenance. The students also received practice sessions with professional drivers on skid control, evasive lane changing, anti-lock braking skills, and panic-braking techniques.

According to The Birmingham News, Payne told the group of drivers and their parents that most collisions could be avoided by adhering to three key rules:

  • Be aware
  • Expect the unexpected. Payne said drivers need to have a “healthy paranoia” that bad things might happen, like a car pulling out of a driveway or a child running into the street to chase a ball.
  • If the unexpected does happen, don’t freak out. “That’s what turns those small mistakes into deadly tragedies,” Payne told The Birmingham News.

To prevent unexpected problems from turning into something worse, Payne gave the students some basic rules to remember before they got behind the wheel:

  • When in doubt, both feet out. If the vehicle starts to lose traction, the driver should take his foot off the gas pedal and refrain from braking in panic.
  • In a spin, both feet in. The instant the driver realizes he has lost control, he should slam on the brakes to stop the vehicle and to make its direction more predictable.
  • If the transmission is manual and the vehicle is in a spin, the driver must remember to press the clutch pedal along with the brake, so the engine won’t cut out. That way, when the vehicle comes to a stop, the driver can get out of harm’s way quickly.
  • Let your eyes be your guide. The driver should look and steer where she wants to go if losing control. “If you’re looking at the tree you think you’re going to hit, then you’re going to hit it,” Payne told The Birmingham News.