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Toyota puts teen drivers to the test

July 10, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
It's no surprise that teen drivers have one of the highest accidents rates on the road, and California ranks second among states with the highest number of fatalities involving teenage drivers. And with all of today's new gadgets, teens are even more distracted than ever.For many teenagers summer brings a special rite of passage. They have the freedom of getting a license and being on their own behind the wheel.

But too often young drivers are involved in tragic accidents that leave families grieving.

This weekend and another weekend in August several hundred local teens will get some extra training thanks to a free program called, Driving Expectations.

"We can build lots of safety equipment into a car, but the one big safety thing is having hands on the wheel," said Karen Polen, Toyota spokesperson.

Professional instructors put the kids through different drills. They focus on the kind of emergency maneuvers that are best learned before there's an actual emergency.

Teaching the basics is one thing, but this program teaches kids about a real danger behind the wheel -- the danger of distraction.

The instructors simulated distractions for the teen drivers. Students had to listen to music while reading out of the owners manual.

"That was really an eye-opener. They had me reading from a pamphlet. It showed me that while driving you really can't focus on both," said Ella Mason, teen driver.

"Technology is everywhere. Some people think you can do multiple things at once, but if you try you'll just go off the road," said Spencer Winter, teen driver.

Parents are encouraged to participate and take away driving knowledge of their own. As well as the knowledge that their teen drivers are safer behind the wheel.

"We turn them loose on the road in 4000 pounds of steel, but it's more than just learning how to turn and stop and parallel park," said Michael Miller, parent of a teen driver.

"She's improving all the time, but I am still concerned about her on the road. As a parent you have to be," said Laurie James, parent of a teen driver.

The free Toyota driving program is available to teens and their parents.


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