Tire Rack Street Survival School – November 13 in Arden, NC

The Tire Rack Teen Street Survival Curriculum states “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.” These are sobering statistics when you realize the vehicles that these teens were driving are the same ones we enjoy and compete with every weekend in Southern motorsports. Tire Rack teamed with BMW Car Club of America, SCCA and Michelin to form this program aimed at giving teens much needed training in handling their cars in emergency real world situations. Teens are instructed in the cars they bring and learn skills such as  : evasive maneuvers, the importance of safety belts, visibility, air bags, distractions (i.e. ,  passengers, cell phones, radio, etc.), and handling a car in a skid on different surfaces and conditions. Parents are invited to come and sit in on classroom instruction and watch their youths on course with qualified volunteer instructors. At the end of the day, parents are allowed to ride with the students to gauge their improvement. The difference is remarkable!

Instructors began arriving at 7 AM at the Biltmore Baptist Church parking lot to set up the course and conduct instructor registration and meetings.  After the pylon course was set up, students began to arrive and register for the one-day training session. Twenty-eight students signed in from as far away as Indiana and West Virginia.  The thirty-two volunteer instructors and staff came from all over the south from car clubs like  BMWCCA, Highlands Sports Car Club and  the Carolina’s SCCA regions.  Technical inspections were performed on all cars and students learned to check oil and tire pressures. After a brief classroom summary was presented by Danny Staley of Wilkesboro, NC (a member of the Tarheel chapter of BMWCCA), the students were broken into two groups : one stayed on for more classroom training while the other began exercises on the pylon lined asphalt courses.  Students had the chance to practice hard braking and controlled braking, emergency lane changes , tight slaloms, and low speed turning ess turns. Groups swapped places so both received classroom instruction on proper seating, mirror adjustments, blind spots, tire traction in all weather situations, judging braking distances and visual awareness of potential dangers while driving. Danny has a unique teaching style and a personality that young people can identify with and enjoy. The smiles and fun in the classroom carry on into the cars when the driving instruction begins.

Mark Wall, a volunteer instructor from the Highlands Sports Car Club said every time he instructs, it’s a pleasure.  “Every student seems tentative at first but as the day progresses, they become more comfortable with handling their car in extreme situations. Every student I have had tells me that they feel more confident and better prepared for the unexpected. I have had students that have been driving for only a few months, while others have been driving for over a year. ALL get better as the day goes on. As we are going through the various elements, I am constantly describing what is happening to the car. Things like weight distribution, braking, and steering vs traction are constant themes. I personally can’t stop smiling the enitire time I am instructing. ”

This particular program was managed by Brian Guinn (Highlands Sports Car Club and SCCA member) and Scott Meyer of the Tarheel Chapter of BMWCCA. Brian explained ” Every instructor here today was a volunteer that spent his or her own money to get there. Biltmore Baptist provided the site for free and Firehouse Subs donated discounted lunches for the drivers and event staff. The local fire department donated their time to bring a firetruck to wet down the skid pad area. The average class size is about 25 depending on the size of the facility.” Brian explained the vital need for this training and how parents need to look at the cost of the course versus the impact on their children’s lives. “How many parents pay a few hundred dollars a year for a cell phone package for their teen so they can stay in touch for emergencies?  How many parents with seniors will spend maybe $1000 on a laptop for their kid to take to college? How about spending $75 on your child so that they will have a safe trip to college… $75 is cheap for a training session that can give their child the much needed skills and the parents some security.”

By the end of the day, the changes in the students were truly amazing. All instructors and students were smiling and parents were pleased with the differences they saw. Many of the instructors stated this was the most fun they had in months and were glad to be able to be a part of the program. Parents and students had individual thanks to pass on to instructors. As Mark stated after the event “Every teenager should take this class early in their driving career. Both my children race go-karts and even though they are familiar with many of the topics we go over, I will require both to take this class when they are old enough. The parents that send their children to this class are to be commended. They realize that teens need a safe place to learn these skills.”

For additional information on Tire Rack’s Street Survival courses, their website can be found at  www.streetsurvival.org    On this website, parents can find frequently asked questions, dates for courses in your area, registration and additional contact info. If you are interested in instructing, please  e-mail Brian Guinn  at lilgunny2002@yahoo.com

As one instructor said, “You will never give as much as you get out of programs like this that make a difference in the future of young people’s lives. I can’t wait for the next one!”