Monday, April 26, 2010

Behind the Wheel with Driver's Edge at Santa Anita Race Track

The non-profit driver education program, Driver's Edge, rolled into Arcadia over this past weekend, setting up their classroom on wheels and hands-on collision avoidance course at the Santa Anita Race Track.  The two-day event offers four, half-day, sessions where young drivers ages 15-21 are introduced to invaluable driving skills and techniques that could save their while driving.  The Driver's Edge program is funded through donations, corporate sponsorship, and grant monies.  The program is based out of Las Vegas, NV, and works closely with Nevada Office of Traffic Safety and Bridgestone.  Arcadia is one of the recurring stops for this national drivers education program.

Students and parents start out the session with an introduction to the program and instructors.  Each of the instructors are current or retired professional drivers from the racing industry.  The classroom welcome does not last long and the students hit the "track" quickly.

Throughout the session, there are two behind the wheel and two static learning components to the training:

  • ABS braking and collision avoidance which includes straight line and braking while turning, along with evasive maneuvering of the vehicle.

  • Vehicle dynamics which covers understeer/oversteer, maintaining control in a slide and proper recovery, and load transfer.

  • Vehicle walk-around, maintenance, and the importance of driver position, hand placement, and seating.

  • Interaction with Law Enforcement who cover legal issues, driving under the influence, and safety. 
The instructors interact with each student and give personal instruction and attention to each.  It is impressive to see the improvement with each pass a student makes on the course.  The student drivers range from having just obtained their permits to young adults who have been driving for four plus years.

The Driver's Edge program offers sound advice and instruction.  One acronym that the instruction teaches is D.R.I.V.E.

  • D - Develop  Develop proper driving habits, which includes always wearing your seat belt.  Avoid distractions and constantly check your mirrors and your surroundings.  Using your eyes properly is one of the most important rules in driving.  It is important to see and be seen.  Try and avoid driving in the blind spot of other drivers.

  • R- Recognize   A driver needs to be conditioned to recognize the constantly changing road and traffic conditions.  Use your eyes!  Proper use of vision is vital.

  • I - Identify  The next step is to identify those situations that may become hazardous; the vehicle merging on the freeway, the car pulling out into traffic, the vehicle turning left in front of you, etc.

  • V- Visualize  As those situations develop, visualize the steps necessary to avoid a collision situation.  How quickly can you stop?  Is it safe to switch lanes?  And so on.

  • E - Execute  Finally, execute whatever driving maneuvers are required to avoid a collision situation: change lanes, slow down, accelerate, etc.  If a collision avoidance situation occurs, this is where it's important to be aware of the true abilities, and the limitations, of both you and your vehicle.
Arcadia Police Department Traffic Officers Steve Crawford, John Jurman, and CJ Clark participated in the weekend events along with representatives from the California Highway Patrol.  The photo below includes APD Officers Jurman and Clark demonstrating a DUI test during their instruction.

About 700 participants took part in the event this weekend.  Thanks to the Santa Anita Race Track for providing the venue and thanks to Driver's Edge for providing the training and event itself.  Without the donations, sponsorship, and grant funding, Driver's Edge would not exist to provide much needed driver education to our youth!

Additional photos of the event can be found HERE.

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