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Program teaches teens defensive driving

September 28, 2009 12:06:47 AM PDT
Car crashes are the leading cause of death for American teenagers, and hanging that statistic means changing attitudes about driving and improving skills.Some teenagers are trying to do just that by taking part in a free program called, Driver's Edge.

Jack Semcken is getting a feel for the road when conditions are less than ideal.

He's one of the young driver's learning how to handle tight turns at 30 miles per hour on wet pavement.

He is learning panic breaking and other defensive driving techniques. It's all a part of the Driver's Edge program

"You need to use the side windows when you're going sideways, so turn your head and use your neck to look where you're going, and you'll know what to do," says a Driver's Edge instructor to Semcken.

Semcken failed his driver's test three times. Now he's confident he can steer his way out of any obstacle.

"I'm pretty sure that once I get out there again, and I see something in the road, I'm probably going to barrel roll around it from just learning the stuff I did here," says Semcken.

Driver's Edge aims to reduce the number of teen car crashes and driving fatalities. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2007, 966 people ranging in ages 16 to 24 years old were killed in car crashes in California.

"None of us are taught how to drive, we're just simply taught to pass a test," says Jeff Payne, the founder of Driver's Edge.

"Yet everyone is so quick to point fingers and blame these kids for being reckless and out of control when they've never been shown what can really happen," Payne added.

The program, now in its 8th year, is a non-profit organization funded by sponsors and grants. Parents say they signed up their sons and daughters for a chance to get tips from performance and race car drivers.

"The driver's education that she's given that's required is bare minimum and doesn't prepare her for any of these emergency maneuvering or any of that kind of stuff," says parent Wes Nutten.

By the end of the year, more than 70,000 teens and their parents will have attended a Driver's Edge program, an effort to make the roads safer for everyone.

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