It’s a time some call the “100 Deadliest Days.” From May to September, about 100 days between Memorial and Labor Day, are when teenage drivers start dying behind the wheel of a car—at the rate of 10 teens a day, according to some statistics. That’s an average of 3,800 teenagers killed every year over the past 4 years. To put that in perspective, last year 5,000 teens between the ages of 16 to 19 were killed in accidents, but over 3/4 of that were just in the summer months.
The Street Survival program, now in its 10th year, aims to put a dent in those numbers. Sponsored by Tire Rack, the purveyors of go-fast rubber, the program gives teens a chance to learn car control, how to handle traffic situations, and the easily-forgettable importance of not driving while distracted.
Using theirs or their parents’ own vehicles (like, say, late-model BMWs shown above), instructors show teens how cars respond in different conditions and at different speeds, with the ultimate goal of improving their own skills and learning how to control their vehicle rather than operate it in various situations. Students complete a series of exercises in parking lots at controlled speeds, around orange cones—and as the program emphasizes, there’s no stopwatch and no competition, period.
“Students will learn how to properly use their own cars based on the physics of car control,” says the program. “They will learn how their cars feel and sound just before and as they exceed the limits of tire adhesion in a controlled situation, helping them to avoid accidents in actual everyday driving situations where they might experience problems.”
With about 35 million Americans hitting the road just for Memorial Day, learning how to stay alive is a rather useful skill. The program is sponsored by State Farm Insurance, Michelin, and BMW, which is raffling off a pair of convertibles to raise money for the program—but of course, expensive luxury cars are the last thing a teen driver needs. If they win one, they can do the responsible thing and learn to drive it in Street Survival.