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By George Murphy, MBCA Technical Director

Last year, over 5,000 teenagers died in motor vehicle crashes, the leading killer of American youths aged 16 to 19, accounting for more than 40 percent of fatalities in that age bracket. To reduce this number, Tire Rack Street Survival® has developed a non-profit, national driver education program aimed at teaching teens the skills they need to stay alive behind the wheel.

– Tire Rack Street Survival®

On April 26 of this year three MBCA members from the Smoky Mountain Section volunteered their time to help with a Tire Rack Street Survival® course conducted in Knoxville, Tennessee. Bill Lenihan, Walter Myer and myself met with local east Tennessee members from BMWCCA and SCCA and were welcomed with open arms to assist as driving instructors and administrative support. This program is now supported by the MBCA Educational Foundation as well.

The primary emphasis of the Tire Rack Street Survival® is a “hands-on” driving experience in real-world situations for new teenage drivers. The students use their own cars to learn about its handling limits and how to control the car in emergency situations. We had 14 students and 14 instructors at our session, so each teen driver was able to stay with one instructor all day.

“The students will become more observant of the traffic situation they find themselves in. They will learn to look far enough ahead to anticipate unwise actions of other drivers. As the students master the application of physics to drive their cars, they will make fewer unwise driving actions themselves. They will understand why they should always wear their own seat belts, and why they should insist that their passengers wear seat belts, too.

The Tire Rack Street Survival® school is a safe teen program designed to go beyond today’s required driver’s education and give teens across the U.S. the driving tools and hands-on experience to become safer, smarter drivers. Trained and qualified in-car driving instructors as well as classroom experience for each student. It’s about more than DRIVING. It’s about LIVING!”
(Resource: Tire Rack Street Survival website)

It was gratifying to see the attitude of these teenagers change as the day wore on – from mild disinterest in the morning to rabid enthusiasm by late afternoon! We started out in the morning with technical inspection of each car and getting acquainted with our young students. After a short classroom session to show the drivers what we will be doing, we headed for the first of several defensive driving sessions – each interspersed with a 45-minute classroom session. The tire smoke and coincident noise from the first few exercises whetted their appetites for more! By lunchtime, all the talk around the table was car handling, wet skids and how many cones each knocked over!

As we wrapped up in late afternoon, few wanted to quit – so we had an impromptu autocross featuring one gate that caused the car to drop one wheel off the pavement (a prime cause of many car crashes by inexperienced drivers). This exercise was one of the scariest for these new drivers, but all learned the technique to regain control of the car without too much drama.

It was very gratifying to see the change in attitude in these youngsters as they learned new defensive driving skills – not to mention getting a chance to drive their cars in a manner frowned upon by parents and local police! But it is all done in a safe, controlled manner with an experienced adult high performance driver in the car at all times.

I strongly urge MBCA members to get out and volunteer to help with this program. Contact the MBCA Educational Foundation to offer your services. Experienced track and autocross drivers are always needed – besides – it’s great fun to mix it up with some really great kids!