SALEM, Va. – Young drivers got the chance to practice their safety skills Sunday at the Salem Civic Center.
“Here they get to break the rules. You know, you might hear them skidding out, and that car just knocked over about three cones, which is good, that’s what we want them to do. We want them to feel what it’s like,” Street Survival volunteer Mary Wilson said.
Mary Wilson has been a volunteer with Street Survival for almost a decade.
“Today we are out here for young drivers to learn how to handle their cars in emergency situations,” Wilson said.
The Street Survival program is an all-day intensive driver training for drivers around the ages of 16 to 21.
While there is both classroom and behind-the-wheel experience, this is not meant to be a Driver’s Ed class. It is meant to enhance driver safety.
“Being a parent, and I’m also an insurance agent, we deal with a lot of young drivers that have had accidents,” Wilson said.
The behind-the-wheel portion included a skid pad, weaving in between cones, and practicing emergency braking at high speeds.
“So that when something does happen on the road, they know how to react,” Wilson said.
Street Survival also brings in other community partners, like Mary King with Youth of Virginia Speak Out About Traffic Safety.
“As we all know, young people are inexperienced behind the wheel,” King said. “And unfortunately, between the years 2020 and 2021, we had a 56 percent increase in teen driver fatalities.”
YOVASO brought in the Virginia State Police to show students the dangers of distracted driving.
“We’re here today with our distracted driving simulator,” King said. “It helps students learn the dangers of driving distracted. Whether that be a passenger, whether it be reaching for that radio to change the dial, or most importantly picking up that cell phone and answering a text or calling someone.”
Street Survival encourages parents to sign their kids up for the class.
“Parents are very important in teaching their students how to drive, but not all parents know the best way to do that, you know, don’t have the skills themselves,” King said. “So, this program just gives parents the opportunity to put their students in a class that shows them how to avoid dangers on the road, how to look for hazards, how to properly brake and steer, how to get out of a skid if they do get into a bad situation. So, we’re using professionals to teach them how to drive safely.”
They are currently planning on doing another Street Survival session in the spring.