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AD's skid pan - Fairfax beats HoCo

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  • bobrosebrough21045
    From today s Washington Post (6/1/2003): NB Fairfax has a safety training facility of its own, apparently. A License to Drive Straight Into Trouble Police
    Message 1 of 2 , Jun 1, 2003
      From today's Washington Post (6/1/2003):
      NB Fairfax has a safety training facility of its own, apparently.

      A License to Drive Straight Into Trouble
      Police Offer Teens Anti-Crash Course

      By Peter Whoriskey
      Washington Post Staff Writer
      Sunday, June 1, 2003; Page C12

      Sure, Ashley Moss, an effervescent high school sophomore with a
      ponytail, may seem innocent enough. But statistically speaking, she
      may be one of the most dangerous people out there.

      She is 16 and she has a driver's license.

      Yesterday, she was making screechy, swervy turns, stopping suddenly
      from 50 miles per hour and then driving too fast on water-slicked

      "I liked spinning out -- it was kind of a rush," she said after her
      hydroplaning adventure.

      Anywhere else, the Woodbridge teenager probably would have earned a
      moving violation for such maneuvers. But she and 14 other students
      were in a new "accident avoidance" class that Fairfax County police
      are targeting at teenagers.

      A combination of inexperience, distraction and overconfidence makes
      teenage drivers three times more likely to be in a fatal crash,
      according to statisticians, and makes them an unending worry for
      police and parents. Sixteen-year-olds, such as Moss, are the most

      "The first year of driving is the most dangerous, and the next year
      is slightly better, and so on to middle age," said Tim Hurd,
      spokesman for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

      Fairfax police, who say they see far too many avoidable wrecks
      involving teenagers, have created a class that takes driving skills
      beyond the usual driver's education classes, which typically offer on-
      road experience under normal conditions. The new eight-hour class,
      which costs $200 and is conducted on the same track in Chantilly
      where police train for high-speed pursuits, lets drivers experience
      the kinds of situations that cause accidents. What's the best way to
      stop suddenly, say, when a car cuts you off? What's the best way to
      swerve around a deer? How well do cars turn in the rain?

      Forget the old hand-positioning of 10 o'clock and 2 o'clock. These
      teens were taught that 9 and 3, or 8 and 4, are more appropriate.
      That you can feel a front-wheel skid in your fingertips through the
      steering column and that you feel a rear-wheel skid through the seat.
      That you should look less at the obstacle than at the space where you
      want to go.

      The course also brings the young drivers into direct contact with
      speed and its dangers.

      "Go full throttle," Officer Don Pierson says, and student Jeffrey
      Willemann, 17, of Woodbridge complies. When the Chevy reaches about
      58, he is instructed to stop suddenly. He does. Everyone in the car

      "I thought it was fun," Willemann says afterward.

      "It's about feeling the brake," Pierson explains to two startled

      Around a bend in the course, Willemann approaches a series of cones
      spaced at about 50 feet. He must swerve in and around each. He
      strikes one, and with a faint thwip, it falls under the car.

      "You just hit a kid," Pierson says.

      Willemann frowns.

      Parents of yesterday's students seemed relieved that a class was
      addressing one of their primary fears.

      "Every single person in my neighborhood is asking, 'How can I get in
      on this?' " said Bruce Guth, a Fairfax police lieutenant in homicide,
      whose daughter Kerri was taking the class. "The truth is, the
      bogeyman isn't going to get you. You're more likely to get hurt in a
      traffic accident."

      Others applauded it as a valuable extension of driver's ed.

      "I don't think anyone would say that after eight hours of on-road
      training [in driver's ed] that they are ready for the Beltway at
      night in the rain," said Lon Anderson, spokesman for AAA Mid-
      Atlantic, which has advocated restrictions on new
      drivers. "Everything else you can teach young people is helpful."

      One of the most common reactions yesterday among the students was
      that they learned how dangerous speed can be. After one particular
      wipeout that had her instructor and fellow student passengers
      grimacing, the ebullient Moss seemed humbled.

      "I've learned to take my foot off the accelerator," she said.

      © 2003 The Washington Post Company
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