The Tire Rack Street Survival (TRSS) intensive, one-day driver training program is returning to the Salem Civic Center for the fifth year. It is scheduled for Sunday, May 6, with a session from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m.
According to Brett Randolph, a transportation engineer with VDOT who is chairing the event for 2018, “Street Survival School is a national non-profit driving school sponsored by Tire Rack and is intended to enhance driving skills of today’s youth.” Randolph has been involved with the Street Survival training for three years.
The driver training is designed for young drivers ages 15-21 and is administered entirely by volunteers. The cost is $95 per student, which funds rental of the event space, meals for both parents and students, and equipment. Scholarships are available by request.
The event is sponsored by the Tar Heel Chapter of the BMW Club, with support from the Porsche Club, the VW Club, Carilion, and law enforcement agencies across the Roanoke Valley.
“We have three hours of classroom and three hours of driving exercises, including a wet skid pad, threshold braking, braking while turning, a slalom course, two-wheels off, and a tailgating exercise,” explained Randolph. “We also have airbag demonstrations, a tractor-trailer visibility demonstration provided by Fleetmaster, and a texting pledge with Allstate. Many partners come together to make this a successful endeavor for the students involved.”
Students use their own daily vehicle or family cars for the survival school. The goal of TRSS is to teach students how their vehicles react under different driving conditions. Each vehicle has unique handling characteristics – for example, front-wheel-drive versus rear-wheel-drive. They want students to be comfortable in the vehicle where they spend most of their time. Siblings taking the class may share a car. The driving exercise time is spent in their car with a certified instructor.
As part of the program, instructors talk about the challenges of distractions to the driver, be it the radio, iPods, cell phones for talking or texting or just the simple case of too many teens in the car.
The “two wheels off the road” segment of the training demonstrates the dramatic results of overcorrecting. According to statistics, nearly half of all fatal, single-vehicle crashes are the result of an off-road crash, often from overcorrecting. Students are taught in their own cars how to return to the road gradually rather than with a yank.
The Fleetmaster tractor-trailer demonstration allows students to sit in the driver’s seat of a tractor-trailer and observe first-hand the limitations a truck driver experiences when using the side mirrors. For the demonstration, there are several parked vehicles in the vehicle’s blind spots to give students a better perspective.
Teenage driving statistics are somewhat alarming. Last year, over 5,000 teenagers died in motor vehicle crashes, the leading killer of American youths aged 16 to 19, accounting for more than 40 percent of fatalities in that age bracket.
Twenty percent of deaths among vehicle passengers of all ages occur while a teenager is driving.
BMW Car Club of America Foundation teamed up with Tire Rack back in 2002 to implement the Street Survival driver training program. The car club became the “feet on the ground,” joined by the Porsche Club of America, who through its nationwide network of members subsequently helped extend the training across the country.
The impetus for the TRSS program locally was the high accident rate among teens at the time, particularly the loss of Staunton River and New Castle students over the past several years.
TRSS says that they offer students “real world, hands on” training. “When your teen driver attends a Street Survival school, we teach them to control their own car in unpredictable situations based on its handling limits. They master the application of driving physics using their car. They learn how to make good driving decisions and react more quickly. They become more aware and learn how to begin anticipating the actions of other drivers. They will understand why they should always wear their own seatbelts, and why they should insist that their passengers wear seatbelts, too.”
Parents are encouraged to attend with their children.
“While we cannot require that you come to the class, we strongly suggest that you do,” is the message from TRSS. “We encourage you to sit in the classroom sessions and listen to those presentations. Even though you have been driving for many years, we feel that there are things that you might learn from experiencing these with your new driver. We also feel that the importance of driving education and the seriousness of this issue is reinforced when your new driver sees you taking an active interest in what they are doing.”
TRSS has conducted more than 100 schools in each of the last five years, from New Hampshire to California and Florida to Minnesota.
All Tire Rack Street Survival coaches are experienced volunteers, and most have instructed at driver education schools ranging from car control to winter driving to high performance driving— what the organization describes as a “mix of teachers and enthusiasts who have been exposed to all levels of car control techniques.” Many also have been involved with auto racing, rallying, or law enforcement.
The TRSS program is grateful for the support of so many local partners in facilitating the driving school.
The Salem Civic Center “bends over backwards” for the event in many capacities in use of the parking lot and classroom and restroom facilities. The skid pad experience would not be possible without the support of the Salem Fire Department and its hoses and expertise.
Local businesses such as insurance agencies and salvage yards often donate to the event and sports car clubs loan equipment such as traffic cones.
Volunteers, many from local car clubs, assist in multiple tasks from recruiting instructors, to registering, organizing the free breakfast snacks and lunch, and standing outside all day on the courses, sometimes in inclement weather, as the training goes on rain or shine.
To participate in the program, students must have an unrestricted driver’s license or permit. If the driver has a permit, that permit must be held for half the time required by the state having jurisdiction, plus a minimum of 25 hours driving experience.
If under 18, students must have their parents’ permission to participate in the Tire Rack Street Survival school with parents signing the minor waiver. If the parents are not attending the school with their teen, the waiver must be notarized. The waiver can be downloaded at: www.streetsurvival.org. Students must present a photocopy of their license, proof of insurance, and the original signed minor waiver (if under 18) to participate.
Cars must be in good mechanical condition and students should arrive with at least three-fourths a tank of gas. The day starts with a brief safety inspection of the vehicles. Students start off learning to check tire pressure with their instructor and discuss other safety-related items with their vehicles. Randolph says students are “welcome to coffee and doughnuts and then the fun begins.”
The deadline to register online for the May 6 Street Survival training is May 4 at 5 p.m. Register at www.streetsurvival.org. Scroll down and click on the Salem Civic Center event to navigate to the registration site. More information is available by phoning Debbie Repass at 434-385-6257 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.