Monday, April 19, 2004

Driving clinics train teens


'Mini-accidents' prepare them for real thing

By Cindy Kranz
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Novice teen drivers can hone their skills at one of the New Driver Car Control Clinics scheduled around Greater Cincinnati this spring.

The clinics were brought to Cincinnati after the death of Makena "Kenzie" Comisar, a 17-year-old Hyde Park girl who died Aug. 1, 2002, in a one-car accident. Family and friends established the clinics as a memorial to the girl.

The year Comisar died, at least 14 teenagers died in car accidents. This year, 10 crashes involving teen drivers have already killed 11 people from Greater Cincinnati since mid-February.

At the clinics, drivers are trained how to react in emergency situations. They must attend a 11/2-hour classroom course, and one morning or afternoon session of behind-the-wheel training.

"Driving is a psychomotor skill," said David Thompson, founder of the clinics. "Just like learning to play the piano requires an actual keyboard, so does learning to control an automobile in an emergency require one to actually drive a car.

"Our clinic is based on the idea that in order to properly manage those inevitable first few accident situations, drivers must learn and practice the proper responses. We do that by creating mini-accidents."

Thompson contends that unless you have preprogrammed your brain to react properly in a panic situation, you will panic, you will lock up the brakes and you will crash.

Florida's Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles reports that New Driver Car Control Clinic graduates' cumulative crash rate over four years is 77 percent lower than the general (15- to 19-year-old) population.

The state of Florida compared clinic graduates from 1999 through 2001. Over four years, the clinic graduates produced a crash rate of 5.3 percent compared with a crash rate among untrained drivers of more than 23 percent.

Thompson is building a database of graduates in Ohio and hopes the Ohio Department of Motor Vehicles will conduct the same research comparing the clinic's graduates to Ohio teens who have not had this training.

Each clinic is limited to 10 parent-teen teams and costs $135-$149 per team. Teens need to have at least a learner's permit. Scholarships are available from The Cincinnati Teen Drivers Fund of the Greater Cincinnati Foundation.

Upcoming clinics

• April 24-25, New Richmond High School.

• April 29, May 1-2, Milford High School.

• April 30, May 1-2, Hope Lutheran Church/Colerain High School.

• May 7-9, Garfield Junior High, Hamilton.

• May 14-16, Forest Hills School District.

• May 21-23, Mason High School.

• June 4-6, Sycamore High School.

• June 11-13, Indian Hill High School.

• July 8-10, Cincinnati Country Day.

For more information on Cincinnati New Driver Control Clinics or to register, visit www.teendrivers.com or call (800) 862-3277.

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E-mail ckranz@enquirer.com




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