Teens, parents take part in weekend safe driving program

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DENVER -- It’s a scary statistic.Teen drivers are more than twice as likely than the average driver to get in a fatal car accident.

But hundreds of teenagers and their parents are doing something to avoid becoming part of that grim group.

They’re taking part in the Toyota Driving Expectations program in the parking lot of Bass Pro Shops in Northfield this weekend.

It’s a milestone many parents face down the road with dread.

“Statistically, it’s the number one cause of death in teens, motor vehicle crashes. I think, knowing teenagers, they’re wonderful, great kids and friends. But lots of times their judgment isn’t as good as it would be if they were more mature and older,” said Cherie Spinks of Denver.

Spinks is one of 600 people expected over the weekend at the safe driving program.

“I’m 16 years old. I go to Wheat Ridge High School,” said Spinks’ son, Sebastian.

She and her son will learn how to handle dangerous driving conditions in a classroom--and behind the wheel.

“The best way to make drivers safer is to start early…We bring them out to a parking lot with lots of cones, so they have a real-world experience, but they don’t have real-world consequences,” said driving instructor Amy Wittkamper.

They first teach the teens a controlled skid, using anti-lock brakes and how to avoid a crash by maneuvering through a coned course. Finally, students face driving distractions.

“Boo!” yells one man at a teen driver as she passes by. It’s too much of a distraction, as she barrels over several cones.

These casualties are cones, but in real life they can be cars, curbs, or even people.

“Open it as quick as you can. Quick, quick, quick. Good. Give to me,” said Wittkamper to Sebastian about a water bottle. “And I need you to turn on the radio as quick as you can,” she immediately told him as he fumbled with the water bottle.

It all drives home the point that driving takes real skill and real focus to stay real safe.

“I feel better knowing he’s aware and he’s learned the reasons that we’re concerned and experienced it firsthand. He had a chance to practice messing up and getting distracted and to see, not just be told,” said Cherie.

The free program continues again all day Sunday. You can sign up at: www.toyotadrivingexpectations.com.