By Andrea Vasquez
In the shadow of MetLife Stadium, teenagers sent cars careening around curves, skidding on wet pavement and stopping on a dime.
The program is called “Drive Safer.” It supplements driver’s ed by giving students experience driving under dangerous conditions in a safe setting.
“The kids are not equipped and we’re here to give them that skill and give them that equipment so that when they get out in those situations, that they can certainly be in much more control,” said Co-owner of Drive Safer Joe Casella.
“People more often than not learn these things on the road and they learn them on-the-job training so when they head into a situation the first time they find themselves without the skills to handle it,” said Chief Executive Officer Jason Friedman.
A study from Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia says 75 percent of serious teen driver crashes are caused by distraction, failure react to hazards or driving too fast for road conditions. Students learn to avoid hazards and drive strategically under the guidance of high-performance driving instructors who have thousands of hours under their belts.
“I’d much rather them have learned the skills to survive doing it on a safe enclosed course with expert instructors than learning it on their own when they have that oh my god moment and they don’t know what to do,” Friedman said.
“This actually tells you the real facts of real life and what to do when something bad’s happening. We really didn’t talk about that last year in driver’s ed,” said course participant Patrick Ragazzo.
The program is aimed at teen drivers, but some parents on the sidelines said they could use a refresher course too.
“I recommend it not only for new drivers. I think anybody could benefit from something like this. I’m learning a lot just by watching and listening,” said Andrea Strahm.
“It’s geared to all drivers. It’s just as useful to people who have been driving on the road for 20 years as it is for people who have been driving on the road for a year and a half,” chief instructor Mindy Oppenheim said.
Whether it’s wet roads or sudden stops, Drive Safer is giving these young people the skills to deal with danger and maybe the judgement to avoid it whenever possible.
“I would say it’s a very difficult thing to hand keys to your kid to get in a car and drive away by themselves. This is going to make me feel a lot better about their abilities to handle themselves in difficult situations,” said parent Merryl.
Proving that a program that costs $300 can ultimately be considered priceless.