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Free Youth Driver Education Program Offered Nationwide

Bridgestone's Driver's Edge Aids Teens in Driving Skill

Driver's Edge obstacle course
Students take part in a Driver's Edge program.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for 15- to 20-year-olds – a fact Driver's Edge™ and Bridgestone/Firestone are determined to change.

The tire company partnered with Driver’s Edge™, a non-profit youth driver-education program, in an effort to lower the number of traffic accidents involving youths through hands-on driver education.

“Experience has shown that young drivers who receive the type of training provided by Driver’s Edge are better prepared to safely respond to all sorts of driving conditions,” said Mark A. Emkes, Chairman, CEO and President of Bridgestone/Firestone North American Tire, LLC. “For this reason, driver education of this group is extremely important. We are proud to be a part of this outstanding program and this excellent opportunity to make a difference in youth driving safety.”

As part of its nationwide 2003 Drive & Learn program, Bridgestone/Firestone will be an official sponsor of Driver’s Edge. The 2003 program kicked off Feb. 8 in Phoenix and will be available in 10 other cities this year.

“Driver’s Edge had phenomenal success and widespread support when it was introduced in Las Vegas last year,” said Emkes. “We’re confident that it will continue to succeed as the program expands throughout the United States.”

Jeff Payne, a professional race-car driver and instructor, founded the non-profit organization in 1999 and offered the first Driver’s Edge program in Las Vegas in 2002. After gaining the support of local students, parents, teachers and public officials, Payne wanted to expand the program to the rest of the country. Payne approached Bridgestone/Firestone for support, since the company has shown a strong interest in driver safety through its Drive & Learn programs and tiresafety.com, a Web site devoted to teaching consumers about tire safety and maintenance.

“Driver’s Edge is the only program in the country of its kind,” said Payne. “Comparable programs would cost about $450 per person, but we’re able to offer Driver’s Edge at no cost to the students, thanks to the support of companies like Bridgestone/Firestone. Many states have done away with behind-the-wheel driving instruction in public schools, so there’s a real need for this kind of hands-on education.”

In 2001, more than 8,000 15- to 20-year-old drivers were involved in fatal crashes. Although this age group makes up only nine percent of the U.S. population, 15 percent of fatal crashes in 2000 involved youths. Payne and others attribute these statistics to poor driver education.

“Teenagers are learning how to pass a test but not learning how to drive,” said Payne. “Rather than pointing fingers after a teenager dies in an accident, we should be teaching them how to drive better in the first place.”

In 2002, Driver’s Edge reached 1,200 young drivers in Las Vegas, and Payne expects the nationwide program to reach 6,000 students in 2003. Before launching Driver’s Edge, Payne spent five years researching and planning its curriculum. The 4½-hour program, which involves classroom and course instruction, teaches students skills in evasive lane changes, anti-lock and panic braking maneuvers, and skid control. In the classroom, students learn about driving after a tire blowout or in icy conditions. On the course, students are taught vehicle dynamics, load transfer and driving in the rain. They are also able to identify and experience the differences in front- and rear-wheel-drive vehicles.

At the beginning of the program, students are given a test designed to measure their driving knowledge. At the end of the program, students are given a similar test to measure how much was learned. On the average, students answer 33 percent of the questions correctly the first time and 80 percent correctly the second time.

The program is offered in two sessions per day, each with about 75 students. As reinforcement, parents are encouraged to observe the sessions. As a follow-up to the program, Driver’s Edge sends a questionnaire to students six months after the course has been completed. Students are asked if they’ve had any tickets or accidents since taking the class. The questionnaire is then sent again after 12, 24 and 36 months.

In addition to Bridgestone/Firestone, AAA and Sprint are co-sponsors of the 2003 Driver’s Edge program.

Students may register to attend one of the 11 events by calling 1-877-633-EDGE (3343) or online at www.driversedge.org and www.bridgestonetire.com.

The Driver’s Edge program will be offered in conjunction with Bridgestone/Firestone Drive & Learn events at the following locations:

  • Dallas - March 8
  • Nashville, Tenn. - May 10, 11
  • New York - May 17
  • Washington/Baltimore, Md. - June 14
  • Detroit - July 18
  • Minneapolis, Minn. - July 24
  • Oklahoma City - Aug. 16
  • San Francisco Sept. 13
  • Salt Lake City Oct. 4

(All dates subject to change. Refer to aforementioned Web sites for current information.)

(Source: Bridgestone/Firestone)

 

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