Well you know I have my learner’s permit and am learning to drive, but this wasn’t a typical “Driver’s Ed” class, it was Driver’s Edge!
This program is sponsored by Bridgestone and organized by people from Las Vegas who recognized the need to educate teen drivers in how to handle situations where it is easy to lose control. The four hour class involved a pre-test to evaluate your knowledge prior to the class, an introduction to explain how everything worked, four rotational stations, and a post-test, to see what was learned. All of this was held in the empty parking lots of the Orange County Convention Center so the worst we had to worry about while driving was hitting little orange cones. (The light-posts were far enough away from the courses.)
The stations were two lectures and two hands-on driving stations. One was a lecture by the Florida State Highway Patrol about seatbelts and a demonstration of “Drunk Goggles” which simulate the vision of someone with an intoxication level exceeding the legal limit. The other lecture was by one of the founders who detailed seat and hand position as well as some of the internal components of the engine.
My favorite parts were the hands-on stations where I actually got to drive. They had cars with four seatbelts and they would put two or three students in the car with a driving instructor. The really neat part was that the instructors were mostly racecar drivers. One of the stations they wet the road and then had us floor the accelerator then let off and try to turn. We would lose traction and have to try to come out of a skid. I’m pretty sure most of those instructors were drifting racers. I did pretty well on that one, I think, because I only ever spun out completely once, the other times I managed to finish driving through the cones at the end of the course. The instructors took us through once or twice then each student was supposed to go three times. The second course was really two put together, one where we slammed on the brakes to see what antilock brakes do, and one where we were supposed to change lanes very quickly like an obstacle had just fallen in front of us. They would take us through that whole thing once and then each student got two turns. The first time on the ABS section we just slammed on the brakes when they told us to, the second time they told us to put them on later and so we had to steer around a curve while braking.
I had such a good time doing it the morning of October 25, the first of two days they were doing it, that I signed up for the Sunday afternoon class too. I felt like the driving experience was very helpful and I am hoping the Driver’s Edge people come back again next year because it was good to get to practice accident avoidance skills in a controlled environment.