Driver's Edge Team Creates Program Greater Than the Sum of Its Parts
- July 27, 2006
- Auto XPRT Speaks..., Automobile Cool News, Kids & Kars, The Car Biz
- Posted by George Peterson
- Comments Off on Driver's Edge Team Creates Program Greater Than the Sum of Its Parts
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.
Jeff Payne is likable, enthusiastic, and straightforward. He developed the program, from workbooks to courses, to bringing in the right in-car instructors. Bios of the instructors can be found at the Driver’s Edge web site, and it is an impressive list of accomplished drivers and instructors. Jeff’s professional racing experience includes European and Japanese circuits. Off the track, he’s shared his passion for driving by operating an exclusive driving school, teaching celebrities and developing programs for national organizations and corporations.
Steven Tepper is Jeff’s business partner and runs the business side of day-to-day operations. His presence at the Detroit event was an indication of his dedication to the program. I also had the opportunity to speak with him for a few minutes, and his enthusiasm is clear. If you’ve got a minute to check out his bio on the Driver’s Edge site, you’ll see that this accomplished and successful businessman could be anywhere. Lucky for any teen attending the program, he’s chosen Driver’s Edge.
Another key member of the team is Tracy Noble. She does an excellent job keeping things moving along, and dealing with registering and organizing communication with the attendees before, during, and after the event. Tracy has been involved with Driver’s Edge since its beginning.
While impressed by all, three instructors in particular caught my attention. Mike Moser is a Lead Facilitator and conducts the Vehicle Walk-Around and Car Care module, Scott Harrington was the instructor giving the pitch at the Skidpad Module during our session, and Byron Payne (no relation to Jeff) was one of the in-car instructors at our skidpad session.
Mike kept everyone laughing through a half-hour or forty-five-minute discussion of car-care basics and the proper seating position, and in a way that the kids remembered. Serious and funny all at the same time, he made he points and kept everyone laughing. One of the first stories Megan told her parents when we got together after class was one of Mike’s.
Scott’s presentation was more sobering as he discussed teens and driver distraction and some disastrous results, but delivered in terms kids could relate to, and he kept their attention even while their classmates were driving on the skidpad in front of them.
Byron adjusted the amount of time and challenge for each student in his car, ensuring students get the instruction most suited to their skill level. Knowing Angel and Megan as well as I do, it was easy for me too see this in action. Angel had been in a single-car accident weeks before and was increasingly nervous and scared as she watched car after car slide and spin around the skidpad. Megan is a little older and hasn’t had an accident; she was more confident and comfortable.
This instructor took extra time teaching Angel what she needed to know, with a longer discussion between course runs, and had her drive the course a few extra times, until he felt she was learning and getting the hang of it. On the other hand, Byron was able to push Megan harder and make it challenge appropriate to her skill and confidence level as much as he did for Angel. Megan did fantastic spins, with at least one about 300 degrees, but learned from those as much as Angel did from her less aggressive runs. Angel earned a Most Improved trophy from Byron as she learned to overcome her fear and develop her skill. Each instructor awards a trophy to one of their students from each session, so this hands-on, special-attention approach is encouranged in all Driver’s Edge instructors.
Top to bottom, this group of people were ready and eager to help students and parents, whether answering simple questions or just giving autographs. And as they took time to speak with parents and students one-on-one, I also saw them genuinely interested in feedback from attendees as well. My sister-in-law even made sure she got autographs of the drivers the girls were paired with, which they were happy to do.
No-Cost Program Survives Through Donations
The program is supported by charitable donations, grants, and corporate sponsorships, with instruction provided at no cost to teens or their parents. National events are scheduled in more than fifteen cities this year, plus more events nearer to their home base at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and in Reno. By taking cost out of the equation, they can reach more teens and the message that cost should not restrict teens from access to instruction is reinforced.
Bridgestone has been a key supporter and crucial to the national program since 2003. Among other supporters are private donations, Red Bull, Firestone Complete Auto Care’s Care’s Car Care Academy, Carmax, the Nevada Department of Public Safety, and Indy Racing League. Driver’s Edge does thank their sponsors in class and online, but promotion is not a condition of support. I find that refreshing in a world where the biggest sponsors at many charity events can be identified by the size of their signage.