Skidding cars and squealing brakes were a common sight and sound at the Ford Driving Skills training July 25-26 at Adesa Auto Auction in Grimes.
The training focuses on helping young and newly licensed drivers gain more practical driving experience.
“This is the next step beyond driver’s education,” said Jim Graham, Manager of Ford Driving Skills For Life. “(Students) need to continue to get training, so this is an opportunity for them to get behind the wheel, training with professional instructors. And it’s a proven program that works, we’ve been doing it for 15 years and have trained over a million people.”
During the two-day period, there were four training sessions with a capacity of 75 drivers. All the sessions met capacity, totaling about 300 teens and adults learning from professional driving instructors.
The instructors taught participants more about hazard recognition, vehicle handling and speed and space management through different courses throughout the session.
The first course helped the drivers learn how to take control of their car.
“We put them in a wheel-handling car, which is basically a mustang that has castors on the bottom and it reduces the traction. So they go in a little oval and slide around the corner, as if they were on snow or ice,” Graham said. “So we teach them how to control what’s called an oversteer - when the car wants to flip around. Through the use of their eyes and different techniques, the instructors teach (them) how to control a car.”
Another course taught the drivers about hazard recognition.
Each driver would drive down one lane that eventually split into three lanes. At the end of the lanes were three green lights. Once the driver hit the start of the three lanes, two of the lights would turn red and one light would stay green. The driver was then supposed to swerve into the lane that contained the green light.
“We have them basically punch the car, they’ll go about 30 miles per hour. … So, they’re going down the highway, something happens in front of them. What’s the decision making process they go through? Do they go right? Go left? Do they slam on their brakes?”
Another part of the hazard recognition course had drivers going about 30 miles per hour or faster toward a green light. As soon as the light turned red, the driver would have to slam on the brakes, screeching to a halt.
While some courses are designed to help drivers control a car, other courses are designed to reduce bad driving habits.
The distracted driving course had participants try to text while driving down a path including stops, turns and more.
“You’re either going to do the text really well and go really slow, where you would be hit. Or you’re going to go and do the course really well, but you don’t do the text well,” Graham said. “The point is you can’t do two things well at once. You need to be focused on driving.”
The new drivers were also taught about impaired driving by instructors and police officers.
“There’s a lot of different types of impairment - from alcohol, to legal drugs, which could be prescription drugs, to illegal drugs,” Graham said. “We’re hoping they don’t do any of these, but we want to get to them early.”
The instructors let the drivers try on goggles that simulate vision while drunk. The students also put weights on one wrist and one ankle and also wore a neck brace. Then, the teens had to try and walk in a straight line.
After, police officers talked to the new drivers about consequences of being pulled over under the influence - including DUI charges and what would happen if they hurt another driver or pedestrian.
Krista Polson, 14, said she enjoyed the distraction and impaired driving courses the most.
“It was really fun. They put drunk goggles on you, so it was really hard (to drive). But the distraction course was even harder because they were all tapping your seat, yelling and screaming.”
While Polson admits her parents forced her to come to the training, she ended up having a good time.
“It’s been a really fun day. I’ve got to do a lot of stuff that I couldn’t do (anywhere else). I’m really happy,” Polson said.
Graham believes that even if the teenagers were not excited about the attending the training, it is still time well spent. He also said that most of the teenagers leave with a smile on their face.
For people that missed the sessions in Grimes or that can’t come to a course, go online to drivingskillsforlife.com and search for “The Academy” for simulation courses.
Graham encourages anyone to try the online course and says that all drivers can benefit from the training, not just young drivers.
“Increasing (driving) skill set and reducing bad habits, that’s really what the goal of Ford Driving Skills is,” Graham said.