On Saturday, young drivers in the East Valley will get an opportunity to step away from their Grand Theft Auto video games and learn real driving skills that could save their lives.
The Driver’s Edge program, founded and designed by professional race car driver Jeff Payne, offers students an unconventional behind-thewheel experience that could prevent them from becoming crash victims. Students learn skills in evasive lane changes, anti-lock and panic braking maneuvers, skid control and tire blowouts. They carry out the maneuvers on a closed course with an instructor at their side.
"This driving course has nothing to do with the fundamentals," said Payne, who has trained celebrities such as Tom Cruise, Charlie Sheen and Jon Bon Jovi. "But it’s addressing the one element that’s missing from driver’s education, and it’s the most critical element of all because in a whole lifetime of driving you may never learn what happens to a vehicle in a panic situation."
The course was developed to combat the increasing number of automobile crashes and fatalities involving teens and young adults, which have skyrocketed in Arizona. According to the Automobile Association of America, there were 143 people ages 15 to 20 who were killed in Arizona car crashes in 2001, a 53 percent increase over the last 25 years. In Scottsdale alone, four teen drivers have died in car crashes since December.
Saturday’s program is free to young drivers. It is sponsorsed by Bridgestone/ Firestone, AAA and Firebird Raceway. At Payne’s California Driving school, the cost of Driver’s Edge instruction is $450 per person.
"There is a serious need for this kind of hands-on education," Payne said. "Reaching out to youth and teaching them the importance of safe and responsible driving is an extremely important issue that affects us all."
Driver’s Edge What: Safe-driving class open to the first 200 teens and young adults who register. Must be ages 15 to 21 and have a valid learner’s permit or driver’s license. Each session will have 100 students. When: Saturday; first session 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., second session 1 to 5:30 p.m. Where: Firebird Raceway, 20000 Maricopa Road, Chandler Cost: Free Information: (877) 633-3343 or www.driversedge.org.