- Associated Press - Sunday, October 22, 2017

NEWTON, Iowa (AP) - Troy Taylor had it all planned out. When he signed his son Lucas up for driver’s ed last year he assumed the teen would get plenty of winter driving practice to fine tune his skills behind the wheel.

Unfortunately, mother nature had other plans. Without much snowfall last year, Lucas spent most of his time in driver’s ed cruising around on dry pavement. When Taylor heard about the Street Survival program, a partnership between the local Sports Car Club of America chapter and the Iowa chapter of the BMW Car Club of America, he jumped at the chance to sign Lucas up.

“I think this is just a great experience for the kids, it’s hard for them to get that hands-on experience in these types of conditions without being in an accident,” Troy Taylor said. “They’re just watching videos in driver’s ed; they don’t have all this going on.”

The Newton Daily News reports that the all-day program, held at Iowa Speedway in Newton, gives teenagers a chance to have firsthand experience in car control. Giving kids a safe space to learn their car’s limits is the goal, instructor Fred Bell said. A longtime volunteer, Bell has been teaching the course for years, and he said it’s easy to see the difference it makes in building critical driving skills with younger motorists.

“We get feedback from students and their parents every year after the first snow of the year telling us how the car stayed out of the body shop and the kids stayed out of the hospital,” Bell said.

The program is a mix of classroom work, paired with driving exercises designed to teach new drivers how to safely control their car at the limit. Using soapy water to simulate winter driving conditions, instructors at the Street Survival course teach students how to maintain control of their cars in less than optimal conditions. Instructors will also explain how ABS braking works, give an active demonstration of an air bag deployment and a static display of a big rig surrounded by vehicle, giving each student the opportunity to experience firsthand what a semi-truck driver sees, and more importantly, what they cannot see.

“I don’t think it would be a bad idea to have every kid in driver’s ed go through this program,” Troy Taylor said. “The only way you get good at anything is with practice and repetition.”

Even though he’s just 15, Lucas Taylor has been driving to school every day with a school permit, and after completing the Street Survival course he said he felt more confident in handling different situations on the road. His favorite part of the event was whipping his 2005 Chevrolet Colorado around on the skid pad, a circular course designed to test the limits of the vehicle’s handling. That’s enough to put a smile on Harlan Donaldson’s face.

For Donaldson, a longtime volunteer with the SCCA in the Street Survival program it’s all about turning frowns upside down. He’s watched kids come in every year, the dread written across their faces as their parents march them in. That all turns around after the first session out on the course.

“By the time they leave here you can’t wipe the grin off their faces, which means that we’re doing something good here,” Donaldson said.


Information from: Newton Daily News, https://www.newtondailynews.com

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