Staff Photos: Erin Evans
Rockdale County High School 10th-grader Brittany Giordano, right, illustrates how teens should properly operate a motorized vehicle — buckled in with both hands on the wheel and paying attention to the road. RCHS senior Michael Smith, left, illustrates what a teen driver shouldn’t do — not buckled in or properly sitting in the car and using a cell phone. This week is the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Teen Drive Safety Week.
It looked like a scene from the movie the Fast and the Furious, but it was just a Tuesday for 72 Lincoln High students.
They were the first in the country to get hands-on training with the new and improved Ford Driving Skills for Life Program.
Instructors rode shot gun while the teens tried to text and drive without hitting cones.
From there the training accelerated.
The instructors then showed the teens how easily a driver can lose control even at slow speeds, and how they can get back in gear.
Lincoln 10th grader, Erin Palmer said, "It was really intense. I felt out of control."
Mike Speck is a trained racecar driver and an instructor on the course.
Speck said, "Once they get to that point where they have to use car control, they're already in deep. But what we're really trying to do is get in their brains and teach them, it's really the decisions you make that have the greatest effect of what's going to happen to you on the road."
Florida Highway Patrol Captain Mark Welch was also on hand at the event.
Welch said, "The reason that's so important is that traffic crashes are the number one killer of teens."
The Florida Highway Patrol says there were more than 5000 crashes in Leon County in 2009 and 29 were fatal across all age groups.
In 2010 that number went up to 36.
Rebecca Kuchar is the spokesperson for the Ford program and said, "They had told us about some recent fatalities unfortunately that this county had and we thought it would be a great way to get some messaging out."
The Ford Driving Skills for Life will visit 30 cities across the country.
The program started in 2003 but recently had a $1,000,000 upgrade that was debuted in Tallahassee.
The program is a partnership of the Ford Motor Company Fund and the Governors Highway Safety Association.