Enthusiasm Breeds Successful, Quality Program
As I’ve described in a related VehicleVoice news story, I had the recent opportunity to see a Driver’s Edge teen driving education program in action. I attended with my nieces, Angel and Megan, and my sister-in-law Jane.
Watching from the sidelines as I was, neither parent nor student, a common element was easy to spot in the entire Driver’s Edge team. They all are dedicated and passionate about this program. The team is full of people leading rewarding careers doing what they love, and it shows in their overall approach and their optimism. This quality is just one of the reasons for the success of the overall program.
From support staff to leaders to in-car instructors, the team had the ability to connect with the students, to get them laughing while conveying serious information, and to keep them engaged through a four-hour program. Their heartfelt enthusiasm was catching, and the high quality of instruction reflected their dedication and interest. After each presentation, instructors were available for questions from students or parents, as were in-car instructors once they were out of the car.
There is a fair amount of bemoaning the high fatality and accident rates among teen drivers, but precious little done to make a difference. In 2002, Driver’s Edge, based in Las Vegas, started to do something about this and has made empowering teen drivers their job. The local program has grown since then, and with help from sponsors has gone national. The 2006 Driver’s Edge schedule included a two-day stop in Michigan, and as I have two nieces with new driver’s licenses, I got them signed up. As a regular contributor to VehicleVoice, I’m glad use the space to share our experience and help spread the word on this fantastic program.
I first heard about Driver’s Edge in 2005, when I attended a Bridgestone
tire event for AutoPacific
. I was beside myself with excitement when I heard Driver’s Edge was returning to our area this summer and there was the opportunity to get my nieces Angel and Megan into the class. My sister-in-law Jane and I took them to the program and we made a family day of it.
The mission of Driver’s Edge is simple: To save lives. Their method is “make highways safer through comprehensive hands-on youth driver education.” They teach teen drivers how to recognize their own driving limits and abilities as well as those of the automobiles. The program open to teen drivers age 16 to 21 with a valid driver’s permit or license, and teens are welcome to repeat the course if they have the opportunity.
Jeff Payne, the group’s founder, starts with the assumption that teens are not incapable. The do lack experience, an issue best addressed through education. This education is not being provided in basic driver’s education courses, where the goal is simply to give people enough information to pass mediocre state driving tests. Driver’s Edge enhances a basic course with gritty stuff about car control, vehicle dynamics, proper driving position, a bit on car care, and specific examples of how deadly a distraction at the wrong time can be. Driver’s Edge helps its students learn what a car can do, what it can’t do, and the knowledge and confidence to handle unexpected situations. Driver’s Edge’s motto sums up the approach: Know Yourself. Know Your Limits.
Jeff is a former professional race-car driver who clearly loves sharing his skill and love of driving and racing. He has taken his experience on tracks and roads in the United States, Europe, and Japan and his experience running his own exclusive driving school and created every element of this program for developing better teen drivers, from the courses to the tests to the take-home booklets.